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Panasonic Investment Underscores Tesla's Knack for Wrangling Corporate Investors

Tesla Panasonic partnership

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 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.