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California electric car company Tesla teams with Daimler

German automaker Daimler has bought nearly 10% of Tesla Motors Inc., giving a financial boost to the California electric car company.

Daimler, which owns Mercedes-Benz, didn’t disclose the amount of the investment, saying only that, priced in euros, the amount was in “eight figures.”

In January, Daimler selected Tesla to provide batteries and chargers for the German company’s Smart EV electric car.

The investment in Tesla “enables the partners to collaborate even more closely on the development of battery systems, electric drive systems and in individual vehicle projects,” the companies said in a news release.

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Tesla currently makes a $109,000 all-electric, two-seat roadster. In March, the San Carlos company unveiled a prototype of its $57,400 Model S electric sedan. Tesla plans to build the car, which gets 160 to 300 miles on a single charge depending on the version, at a plant in Southern California beginning in late 2011.

Tesla recently failed to complete a $100-million round of outside venture funding and settled for a smaller, $40-million round from investors who already had a stake in the company. To make up the gap, it has turned to low-cost federal loans as its best option for financing. Those loans have not yet been approved.

Teaming with Daimler will give Tesla access to the German company’s “engineering production and supply-chain expertise,” Tesla Chairman Elon Musk said in a statement. “This will accelerate bringing our Tesla Model S to production and ensure that it is a superlative vehicle on all levels.”

The deal expands Daimler’s access to Tesla lithium-ion battery technology. Under the January agreement, Tesla agreed to provide 1,000 batteries to Daimler this year and next.

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As part of the deal, Herbert Kohler, Daimler’s vice president of electric-drive systems, will become a member of Tesla’s board of directors.

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martin.zimmerman@latimes.com


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