Power Players

There could be a Tesla, Mercedes-Benz collab coming

Tesla Chairman and CEO Elon Musk addresses discusses self-driving featur
Visual China Group | Getty Images

It's sounding more likely that Tesla and Mercedes-Benz could be ready to collaborate.

The German automaker has held discussions with billionaire Elon Musk's electric car manufacturer about the possibility of cooperating in some capacity on a planned electric version of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van, Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Mercedes parent Daimler AG, told Bloomberg on Wednesday.

A Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van in September 2018.
Krisztian Bocsi | Bloomberg via Getty Images

"These talks are happening," Zetsche told Bloomberg before adding that the "outcome is open."

While neither company has revealed exactly what such a collaboration between Tesla and Mercedes on an electric van would entail, the revelation that discussions are at least underway is the latest in a series of hints that the two companies might be ready to rekindle an old relationship.

Daimler and Tesla first started working together over a decade ago, with Musk's electric automaker providing lithium-ion battery packs and charging technology for a Daimler electric smart car. In 2009, Daimler paid $50 million to acquire a stake in Tesla of under 10 percent — a stake the German company later sold in 2014 for roughly $780 million.

Tesla also provided Mercedes with the electric powertrains used to power the electric Mercedes-Benz A-Class and B-Class electric cars before Daimler divested from the company in 2014.

However, in October, Daimler's Zetsche said in an interview with a Polish newspaper that Mercedes could be open to working with Tesla again at some point. A month later, Musk mused on Twitter that it would be "maybe interesting to work with Daimler/Mercedes on an electric Sprinter," in a tweet referencing the electric van unveiled last year by the German automaker.

Zetsche also said that it's possible Tesla could be interested in using Mercedes' electric vans for its mobile service fleet, the unit of Tesla employees the company deploys to repair issues with its vehicles at customers' homes or workplaces.

Reached for comment by CNBC Make It, a Mercedes-Benz spokesperson said the company has no further comment on Zetsche's statements, while adding "we are often in talks with traditional and new players in the automotive industry to explore potential collaboration. We cooperate where it makes sense."

CNBC Make It also reached out to both Tesla for comment and will update this article with any response.

UPDATE: This article has been updated to add a response from Mercedes-Benz.

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