May 26, 2023
Tesla’s Former Partnerships Cast Shadow Over Ford EV Charging Pact
(Bloomberg) -- Tesla Inc.’s partnership with Ford Motor Co. on electric-vehicle charging technology is winning support across Wall Street. Its ultimate success may depend on whether Elon Musk’s company can break with precedent.
The EV giant has made a series of deals with — or overtures to — other automakers over the years that have repeatedly failed to lead to lasting relationships.
Early in Tesla’s run as a true EV manufacturer, the company supplied powertrain technology to Daimler AG and Toyota. In 2010, Daimler acquired a nearly 10% stake in Tesla and worked to integrate Tesla’s tech in Mercedes-Benz vehicles and the Smart brand’s early EV. Toyota announced a deal around the same time to make a Rav4 with a Tesla electric powertrain.
Those collaborations — forged at a time when EVs were still mostly a curiosity — didn’t last long. Daimler sold down its stake over the next few years. It also ended the powertrain supply contract, as did Toyota.
In 2014, Musk, Tesla’s chief executive officer, revealed an “open source philosophy” to help advance EV adoption, promising to “not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.” He also invited carmakers to license Tesla’s driver-assistance tech.
While Musk has alluded to preliminary discussions with other manufacturers, no deals have ever come of the offers.
The partnership announced Thursday has echoes of Musk’s prior efforts. Ford will utilize Tesla’s charging technology — the first major automaker to adopt what Tesla calls the North American Charging Standard — opening 12,000 Superchargers to Ford drivers.
Whether other automakers follow suit remains to be seen. On Friday, both companies’ shares climbed more than 4% as investors celebrated what’s viewed as a win-win arrangement.
The Supercharger network has long been one of Tesla’s major advantages after it spent years building out tens of thousands of stalls at a time when there was little competition. More companies have started to emerge in the space, including Electrify America, EVgo Inc. and Blink Charging Co.
Amid rising competition, Tesla last year said it was opening its charging standard and encouraged automakers to put Tesla charging connectors and ports in their vehicles. The Austin-based company has also been building Superchargers that let almost any EV plug in. That not only helps Tesla unlock federal subsidies from the recently passed infrastructure bill, but also allows rivals’ customers to test the network.
“This should be viewed as Tesla playing the long game,” Tom Narayan, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets, said in a note after the Ford announcement. Tesla may now open its network to other manufacturers such as General Motors Co. and Stellantis NV. “Tesla realizes that EV charging is going to become ubiquitous and standardized, so keeping its network private will only invite competition.”
--With assistance from Dana Hull.
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