Panasonic has sold a $3.61 billion stake in Tesla as part of a broader push to raise funds for future investments. Although Panasonic officials say that they aren’t going to dump Tesla as a buyer of batteries and electronics, they say that the move is in line with its corporate governance protocols.
Panasonic bought its Tesla shares for $30 million in 2010. Since then, relations between the two companies have occasionally been tense, with senior officials from both occasionally trading barbs publicly. However, Tesla has been one of Panasonic’s biggest customers, though Panasonic now seems interested in moving away from relying solely on Tesla.
This may not be difficult if Panasonic continues to manufacture batteries for automakers. In some countries like the UK and U.S. States like California, new regulations aim to push for the phasing out of sales of new gas- and diesel-powered vehicles by the 2030s. Some automakers are already manufacturing or working on electric vehicles of their own with an eye toward competing with Tesla. Some reports even say that these automakers could catch up in market share despite Tesla’s early head start in manufacturing electric vehicles.
Experts say that the biggest challenge will be having enough infrastructure like EV charging stations in place before electric vehicles go fully mainstream. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the UK will need 2.3 million chargers to support regulators’ demand that all new vehicles should be free of gas and diesel by 2030. Setting all these chargers up by the end of this decade is likely to be a challenge.
Fortunately, some municipalities and private companies like Fastned seem willing to make the upfront investment as much as they can. U.S. President Biden’s infrastructure investment proposal also includes support for greater adoption of electric vehicles. Tesla is also in the process of getting Supercharger stations like one in Santa Monica, California, up and running and has floated the possibility of opening these stations up to vehicles made by other manufacturers (and, yes, eventually adding a 1950s-themed restaurant complete with waitstaff on roller skates).
Tesla is also diversifying its sources of batteries, including buying stakes in automotive battery manufacturers like German battery assembly manufacturer German ATW Automation. Tesla recently pursued a 10% stake in South Korea’s LG Energy Solution and also made a deal with China’s CATL, the latter of which is expected to supply Gigafactory Shanghai. Tesla is also working on developing its own battery-making capacity, including filing updated plans for Gigafactory Berlin to include more details on product lines and the ability to assemble batteries in-house.
Elon Musk has previously announced a more efficient battery-making process at the company’s Battery Day event last year. His insistence on manufacturing some parts for Tesla vehicles in-house helped Tesla earn two of the top three slots for Cars.com’s most recent American Made Index, which rates the top American-made vehicle models.
The increased demand for electric vehicle batteries among companies that aren’t as interested in manufacturing their own may be an opportunity for Panasonic despite its willingness to dump its Tesla shares.