Daimler wants to expand cooperation with Tesla Motors

Article by Anita Panait, on November 4, 2013

Daimler AG is targeting to expand its cooperation with Tesla Motors Inc., according to Bodo Uebber, German carmaker's chief financial officer. Tesla is supplying electric motors and batteries to Daimler for its Smart Fortwo EV as well as for the new Mercedes-Benz B-Class EV that will be launched in 2014 in the United States and Europe.

"We could use more" from Tesla, Uebber said. Daimler owns 4.3 percent of Tesla, which also supplies EV components to Toyota Motor Corp. Uebber said that Daimler is already reviewing plans for its next generation of small vehicles due around 2018, after recently launching its new CLA compact sedan.

It is also getting ready to launch a second model, the GLA compact crossover, in early 2014. Daimler's CFO remarked that the company is discussing "different strategies" for producing the next-generation compacts in Mexico with partner Renault-Nissan , "but no decision has been made."

He said that the CLA, the GLA and at least one more derivative in 2015 from carmaker's MFA modular platform were crucial to Daimler's growth, especially in the US and China.

He quipped that Daimler is a latecomer small premium segment, and needs compact cars to "get a broader, younger customer base."

Daimler is also launching more derivatives of its redesigned S-Class flagship -- a large coupe and an exclusive "long-long-wheelbase" sedan that will be sold in the US, China and Europe.

The "long-long-wheelbase" sedan will likely be targeted at offerings of BMW AG's Rolls-Royce and Volkswagen's Bentley brands, thereby plugging a gap left by the collapse of Daimler's Maybach brand.

According to Uebber, Daimler's Alabama site will commence producing the redesigned C-Class sedan in 2014 and a SUV derivative in 2015.

He noted that the decision on whether to set up a labor union at its Tuscaloosa site "lies with [their] workers." Uebber remarked that they are "happy with the current status" at the site, and its workers "are happy with the environment."

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