Toyota has sold all its shares in Tesla – here’s why

Published: 06 June 2017

► Toyota reveals it no longer has Tesla stock
It sold all its Tesla shares at end of 2016
Brings to an end six-year shareholding

Here’s an interesting industrial news snippet that snuck out at the weekend: Toyota revealed it had sold its entire stake in Tesla, as the two car makers abandoned plans to jointly develop electric cars.

Japan’s biggest car maker bought a 3% stake in Tesla Motors for $50 million (£39m) in May 2010. It is believed to have made around 10 times that – £373m – by selling its remaining shares late last year. 

A senior official revealed on Saturday that Toyota had pulled out of the arrangement and was going it alone in future powertrain development.

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Why Toyota pulled out of its deal with Tesla

Toyota spokesman Ryo Sakai told Automotive News that it had started divesting its shareholding in Tesla in 2014 and by the end of 2016 it had sold all of its shares.

‘Our development partnership with Tesla ended a while ago,’ he told AN. ‘And since there has not been any new developments on that front, we decided it was time to sell the remaining stake.’

Rewind seven years and the photo above marks the moment Tesla CEO Elon Musk (left) and his counterpart at Toyota Motor Corp, Akio Toyoda, struck a deal to collaborate on EV development. ‘Toyota would like to learn from the challenging spirit, quick decision-making and flexibility that Tesla has,’ he said.

The Toyota RAV4 EV project: Toyota and Tesla collaborated

Electric Toyota RAV4: where Toyota and Tesla met

The two companies worked together on the RAV4 EV (above) aimed at the Californian market; Toyota was keen to tap into Tesla’s local expertise and knowledge of the complex rules and regs. Interestingly, the electric RAV4 project was once trialled in Jersey back in the 1990s.

But the project did not lead to bigger and better things. Observers noted a culture clash between the traditional Japanese car maker and the riskier, Silicon Valley approach. 

Toyota sold its first batch of Tesla shares in 2014 and decided to focus on working with bigger players. It is now working on hydrogen fuel-cell technology with BMW, for instance.

Toyota is the world’s largest producer of hybrid vehicles and sold its 10 millionth petrol-electric vehicle in February 2017. That’s an impressive milestone since the Prius launched in 1997 – and 254,000 of those were sold in the UK.

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By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet