This EV market's becoming a tangled story

Somewhere in the future, a business school class will be scratching its head to understand who did what back in 2010 at the dawning of the electric-vehicle era. It's rapidly becoming a tangled tale to tell.

Toyota just invested $50 million in the as-yet unproven Tesla Motors for an as-yet unexplained electric-vehicle product partnership. In return, Tesla received a not-fully-explained deal to acquire Toyota's NUMMI plant, 10 times more factory floor than it needs.

All but forgotten in the deal was the fact that, a year earlier, Daimler also acquired a 10 percent stake in Tesla, to little notice. Weeks later, Daimler then flipped 40 percent of its new Tesla interest to Aabar Investments, the investment arm of the Abu Dhabi government, which has also acquired a 9 percent stake in Daimler.

Daimler later announced a separate new partnership with Toyota's Japanese arch-rival, Nissan, to share vehicles, engines, green technologies and various other treasures around the world. Nissan is itself rapidly pursuing an electric-vehicle strategy in hopes of getting a leg up on Toyota. Yet Nissan's new partner, Daimler, is now partners with Toyota's new partner, Tesla.

Daimler also is doing business with BYD Co. Ltd., the Chinese automaker in which billionaire Warren Buffett has invested. Daimler announced that partnership on May 27 as its avenue into China's electric-vehicle market, a market that partner Nissan has said it, too, hopes to enter.

Meanwhile, BYD will also be partnering on Chinese electrics with Daimler's Chinese competitor, Volkswagen. Oh, and BYD says it will be entering the U.S. electric vehicle market later this year to compete against Daimler's partner there, Nissan.

Viva la free market. Hopefully someone somewhere is keeping all this straight.