Somewhere in the future, students in a business school class will be scratching their heads trying 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 archrival, Nissan, to share vehicles, engines, green technologies and various other treasures around the world. Nissan is itself rapidly pursuing an electric-vehicle strategy in the hope of getting a leg up on Toyota. Yet Nissan's new partner, Daimler, is now partners with Toyota's new partner, Tesla.