Tesla and Toyota go for green market

Toyota and Tesla Motors logos appear on a podium before a news conference at Tesla Motors headquarters May 20, 2010 in Palo Alto, Calif.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: For all the talk of fuel standards for cars and light trucks that there's been over the years, there are no mileage rules on the books for heavy trucks. Today the president gave federal agencies 'til next summer to come up with big-rig fuel economy standards.

Meanwhile Toyota's getting into the electric car business. It's made a $50 million investment in Tesla as part of that company's initial stock offering.

Tesla's going to use some of that newly acquired cash to re-open a now-closed Toyota plant in Northern California.

From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Steve Henn has our story.


STEVE HENN: Up until now Tesla been a niche player in the auto industry. Millionaires and movie stars who want to go fast and feel greener than thou have been snapping up its $100,000 Roadster.

But...

ELON MUSK: People would say why are you making this expensive sports car, as though we somehow felt there was a shortage of sports cars for rich people or something.

Elon Musk is Tesla's CEO.

MUSK: It's really been my goal from the beginning for Tesla to produce a mass market car.

And this deal should help. It lets Tesla buy a major production plant for pennies on the dollar, and Tesla will be able to use Toyota parts as it tries to develop cars the rest of us can afford.

In return, Toyota gets a PR glow from re-opening a California factory it shut down last month. And it gets Tesla's technology to make its own electric cars. Yesterday, Toyota's embattled CEO stood by beaming as California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger praised the firm.

Arnold Schwarzenegger: If everyone in the world would drive those cars that they are creating, oil companies would be out of business. So they don't like what we're doing here.

But auto workers do. Between Tesla and Toyota, the plant could ultimately create 10,000 new jobs.

In Palo Alto, Calif., I'm Steve Henn for Marketplace.

About the author

Steve Henn was Marketplace’s technology and innovation reporter for the entire portfolio of Marketplace programs until December 2011.

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