Daimler wants to expand cooperation with electric-car maker Tesla


By Paul Lienert

NEW YORK, Oct 31 (Reuters) - Daimler AG, theGerman parent of Mercedes-Benz, would like to expand itscooperation with Tesla Motors Inc, the U.S.electric-car maker, a top Daimler executive said on Thursday.

"I told my guys, go back to Tesla and look for otheropportunities" to work together, Bodo Uebber, Daimler's chieffinancial officer, said at a press briefing. "We want to lookfor more cooperation."

Tesla is supplying electric motors and batteries to Daimlerfor its Smart Fortwo EV and the new Mercedes-Benz B-Class EVthat goes on sale next year in the United States and Europe.

"We could use more" from Tesla, Uebber said, withoutproviding specifics. Daimler holds a 4.3 percent stake in Tesla,which also provides EV components to Toyota Motor Corp.

Uebber said Daimler, which just launched its new CLA compactsedan and is preparing to add a second model, the GLA compactcrossover, in early 2014, is already reviewing plans for itsnext generation of small vehicles, due around 2018.

Daimler is discussing "different strategies" for buildingthe next-generation compacts in Mexico with partnerRenault-Nissan , "but no decision has beenmade," Uebber said.

He said the CLA, the GLA and at least one more derivative in2015 from the company's MFA modular platform were crucial toDaimler's growth, especially in the United States and China.

"We are a late comer" to the small premium segment, he said,but "we need compact cars to get a broader, younger customerbase."

Daimler also is rolling out more derivatives of its recentlyredesigned S-Class flagship, he said, including a large coupeand an exclusive "long-long-wheelbase" sedan that will be soldin the United States and China as well as Europe.

The latter model likely will be aimed at expensivecompetitors from BMW AG's Rolls-Royce and Volkswagen's Bentley brands, filling a void left by the demise ofDaimler's unsuccessful Maybach brand.

Uebber said Daimler's U.S. plant in Alabama will beginbuilding the redesigned C-Class sedan next year, as well as anew SUV derivative in 2015.

The decision on whether to establish a labor union at theTuscaloosa plant, long a target of United Auto Workersorganizing efforts, "lies with our workers," Uebber said.

But "we are happy with the current status" at the plant, headded, "and the people working there are happy with theenvironment."

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