The automobiles at the center of an announcement between Toyota and Tesla Motors are a jointly developed electric vehicle and the latter's Model S electric sedan. But the longer term plan is to develop multiple variations of the Model S at the same site, according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
The two companies said Thursday that Toyota will invest $50 million in the electric carmaker and jointly manufacture electric vehicles at the recently closed New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. factory, known as Nummi, which had been a joint venture between Toyota and General Motors.
Tesla is purchasing the Nummi facility in Fremont, Calif., to manufacture the Model S sedan, with a goal of starting production in mid-2012 and ramping up to 20,000 vehicles a year, Musk said during a press conference with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda.
Over time, the goal is to make different models from the Model S platform at Nummi, Musk said. Even as it plans for production of the Model S sedan, Tesla plans to unveil future models.
"Expect to see lots of things in parallel," he said. "Think of the Model S as a platform on which there will be multiple variations."
Both Musk and Toyoda declined to specify the vehicles the joint partnership will work on, saying negotiations are in the early stages. Musk indicated that joint projects would come out before Tesla starts producing the follow-on vehicles to the Model S.
Toyoda said the investment in Tesla is part of the strategy to "take an aggressive stance" on environmentally oriented products and vehicles for emerging markets. The company already has plans to bring a plug-in Prius to market next year and to manufacture a small, all-electric car.
The factory itself, which closed down because of GM's bankruptcy, has a capacity of making 500,000 vehicles a year. As such, Tesla's production of the Model S, targeted at 20,000 annually at first, will occupy just a small portion of the overall site.
Musk added that Tesla's intention is to create an environmentally friendly factory. "Our aspiration here is to make the greenest and cleanest car plant in the world...It should be a showpiece of automotive production."