Tesla is officially no longer dependent on the success of its niche electric sports cars and sedans. The perennial startup first announced plans in July for an agreement with Toyota to develop an electric version of the RAV4 featuring a Tesla powertrain. Now it's in writing. Tesla filed a form with the Unites States Securities and Exchange commission on Wednesday disclosing its $60 million agreement with Toyota.
The filing reads:
On October 6, 2010, Tesla Motors, Inc. entered into a Phase 1 Contract Services Agreement with Toyota Motor Corporation for the development of a validated powertrain system, including a battery, power electronics module, motor, gearbox and associated software, which will be integrated into an electric vehicle version of the RAV4. Pursuant to the Agreement, based on preliminary specifications, TMC will pay Tesla approximately $60 million for the development services to be provided by Tesla.
Tesla expect to have a fleet of RAV4 prototypes later this year, and a commercial model of the vehicle will be ready by 2012.
In one fell swoop, Tesla just became much more than a well-funded EV startup. It blossomed into a parts provider for one of the world's biggest automakers. If all goes well with the deal, Tesla stands to profit from increased vehicle sales—the Toyota deal will prove the viability of the company's EV technology. It could also mark the beginning of a larger relationship with Toyota — and the rest of the automaking world.