AUTOS:

With help from Toyota, Tesla to build electric cars in Calif.

Tesla Motors Inc. plans to make electric cars at a recently closed plant in Fremont, Calif., starting next year.

The Palo Alto-based company announced yesterday it will use an old Toyota Motor Corp. and General Motors Co. factory to produce an electric sports sedan. The move was helped by a $50 million investment from Toyota, which will allow Tesla to move its manufacturing operations out of England.

"We look forward to learning and benefiting from Toyota's legendary engineering, manufacturing and production expertise," said Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk.

The two companies will work together to make electric vehicles and parts, as well as restructure the production and engineering systems. Akio Toyoda, Toyota's president, said he was excited to work with a venture business and help it avoid the missteps of his own company, which lost its focus on quality as the company grew.

The announcement was a blow to officials in the city of Downey, who were hoping Tesla would use a former space shuttle manufacturing facility there. City Councilman Mario Guerra said the city was "shocked, upset and betrayed" and that officials thought they had a deal with Tesla last week.

The new plant will bring about 1,000 jobs to the region. The company will focus on the Model S electric sedan, which retails for $57,400. The vehicle is more expensive than other electric vehicles being released this year, but it is designed to compete with higher-end sports cars (Jerry Hirsch, Los Angeles Times, May 20). -- JP

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