TOYOTA CITY, Japan â€“ Against the backdrop of its stormy initial public offering,Motors Inc. remains a topic of â€ślively discussionâ€ť at Motor Corp.
Though no final decision has been made, the Japan-based auto maker is contemplatingtechnology to power its iQ electric vehicle, scheduled for limited production in 2012, says Yutaka Matsumoto, project general manager-technical strategy and research and development management.
took a $50 million stake in Tesla seven weeks ago, as part of a deal that saw the EV maker acquire a portion of the former New United Motor Mfg. Inc. assembly plant near Teslaâ€™s California headquarters.
The facility became available after Toyota ended production there following the dissolution of a joint venture with the formerCorp.
Confirmation that the iQ minicar may benefit from Toyotaâ€™s investment in Tesla follows speculation the EV car company established by PayPal-founder Elon Musk could provide technology to power a Toyota EV. Previously, the partners had not linked their aspirations to a specific nameplate.
A commitment from Toyota would be timely for Tesla, which saw its stock get hammered Wednesday by selloffs. Tesla shares closed at $15.80, nearly half the peak price established last week.
But Toyota is trying to avoid being â€śhastyâ€ť in its development of EVs, Matsumoto tells Wardâ€™s during an event here to spotlight the auto makerâ€™s latest quality-control initiatives.
Having produced and sold its RAV4 EV from 1997 to 2003, Toyota has proven its in-house capability, he says, noting the â€śbase technologyâ€ť is the same as the auto makerâ€™s industry-leading hybrid-electric system.
â€śThe same energy-management system can be utilized, same motor,â€ť Matsumoto says. â€śTherefore, we have confidence that we can make this EV.â€ť
Strategically, Toyota favors plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles as the most conducive solution for the evolving EV market â€“ a posture that runs counter to Muskâ€™s stated claim that declining oil reserves will compel auto makers to transition entirely to battery power.
Muskâ€™s view must have made for interesting exchanges with Toyota President and CEO Akio Toyoda, with whom he negotiated the alliance.
Sources with knowledge of the discussion tell Wardâ€™s Toyoda approached Musk about a deal, which was conceived while the Toyoda chief was behind the wheel of a Tesla Roadster, with the Tesla CEO riding shotgun.
Toyota is launching a plug-in hybrid version of its Prius hybrid about the same time the iQ is due. Citing shorter charging time, extended range and better prospects for battery life, â€śmaybe the major (EV) market can be plug-in,â€ť Matsumoto says.
All-electric vehicles likely pose a better solution for short urban commutes, he adds.
Toyota also remains committed to developing vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells. The auto maker will introduce a fuel-cell vehicle in 2015, but the technologyâ€™s proliferation depends on the establishment of an infrastructure to accommodate refueling, Matsumoto says.