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Panasonic Investment Underscores Tesla’s Knack for Wrangling Corporate Investors

In the past year and a half, Tesla has generated investments from Daimler and Toyota. Now the automaker has grabbed $30 million from Panasonic. Not bad for a company with only one car on the road. How do they do it?

Tesla Panasonic partnership

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Perennial startup Tesla Motors has a knack for sealing partnerships with multinational corporations. In the past year and a half, Tesla has garnered investments from Daimler (a $50 million investment) and Toyota (a $50 million investment and Toyota is developing an electric version of the RAV4 with a Tesla powertrain). Yesterday came news that the automaker has grabbed $30 million in funding from electronics giant Panasonic.

The move isn’t entirely unprecedented. Tesla and Panasonic first announced plans to work on developing nickel-based lithium ion battery cells for Tesla’s EV battery packs in January. Panasonic has also shown an increasing interest in energy storage–the company recently took a majority stake in Sanyo, the world’s largest lithium-ion battery manufacturer, and is halfway toward its goal of investing $1 billion in lithium-ion battery research, development, and production.

Naoto Noguchi, President of Energy Company, a unit of Panasonic, spelled out its energy storage ambitions in a statement: “Panasonic aims to be the number one Green Innovation Company in the

Electronics Industry by 2018, the 100th anniversary of our founding. Our sophisticated

lithium-ion battery cell technology, combined with Tesla’s

market-leading EV powertrain technology, helps us fulfill this goal by

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promoting sustainable mobility.”

For a company with only one car on the road (the Roadster) and one in the pipeline (the Model S), Tesla has managed to attract some impressive investors. Was there some tipping point in Tesla’s development when powerful corporations decided it was safe–and wise, for that matter–to plunk down large amount of cash?vTesla won’t comment on the matter, but we’re guessing that last year’s Daimler partnership–which predates the Toyota deal–may have been just the green light that Toyota and Panasonic needed.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.

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