Abu Dhabi firm buys into electric car maker

14 Jul 2009

Aabar Investments has acquired 40pc of Daimler’s interest in Tesla Motors, taking a 4pc stake in the electric vehicle manufacturer.

A strategic partnership was struck between Daimler and Aabar Investments yesterday, with Daimler selling 40pc of its equity interest in Tesla to the Abu Dhabi firm.

Back in May 2009, as reported on siliconrepublic.com, the world’s second-largest manufacturer of luxury cars, Daimler, acquired a 10pc stake in Tesla Motors.

Daimler and Tesla are already planning to place Tesla’s lithium-ion battery packs and charging electronics into the first 1,000 units of Daimler’s electric smart car.

Daimler’s and Aabar Investments’ collaboration started in March of this year when Aabar acquired a 9.1pc of the share capital of Daimler for US$2.72bn to become the company’s largest stockholder, surpassing Kuwait.

Aabar invests in sectors encompassing energy, infrastructure, real estate, automotive and financial services companies. Its largest stakeholder is the International Petroleum Investment Company.

In terms of the Silicon Valley start-up itself, Tesla acquired a US$465m loan from the US Government’s energy department’s advanced technology loan fund for car makers in June.

With this loan, which it had first applied for two years ago under the Bush administration, Tesla will construct a new plant that will be used to build its Model S electric sedan, while the company will also use US$100m for a powertrain manufacturing plant that will employ about 650 people.

Tesla’s all-electric family sedan will have the capacity to carry seven people and will travel up to 300 miles per charge. It is due to reach the marketplace in 2011.

Its electric-powered sports car, the Roadster (pictured), can accelerate from 0 to 100mph in just under four seconds. Currently only around 500 Roadster’s have reached the marketplace, however.

Tesla sells the Roadster starting at US$101,500, while its Roadster Sport will set you back almost US$130,000. The S electric sedan model is expected to retail for US$49,900 upwards, following a US$7,500 US federal tax credit.

The loan Tesla received is part of the Advanced Vehicle Technology Program to help foster the next generation of affordable, energy-efficient vehicles, as the US aims to create more green-collar jobs and reduce its high dependence on foreign oil.

Under the loan fund, Ford Motor Co received US$5.9bn, while Nissan North America received US$1.6bn. As part of their loan remits, Nissan is planning to produce an electric sedan, while Ford plans to build a battery-powered version of its Focus.

Tesla had been seriously struggling of late to obtain financing due to the credit crisis. Along with some management upheaval, the company was also forced to recall more than two thirds of its Roadsters to fix rear bolts in May. Since Daimler stepped into the picture in May, however, things have started to turn for the better for the electric-car pioneer.

And with Abu Dhabi’s Aabar Investments coming on-board, this will surely open up new opportunities for Tesla, especially since the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is increasingly trying to shake off its purely oil exploitation image and reposition itself as a global leader in sustainable, clean technologies.

The International Renewable Energy Agency will be based in the UAE, which is also working on the Masdar initiative, a planned city in Abu Dhabi. Masdar City will be run solely on clean technologies such as solar power, and will also operate based on a zero-carbon premise.

By Carmel Doyle

Pictured: Tesla’s electric-powered sports car, the Roadster