Of course, whether a partnership will ever unfold remains a big question mark. And if one does come to light, the scope of that partnership would be an even larger conundrum.
Last month, Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler (DDAIF) gave the pot a gentle stirring when its CEO Dieter Zetsche said he wasn't opposed to working with Tesla in the future. Daimler sold its 4% equity stake in Tesla in 2014 and while Zetsche says he doesn't regret selling the position, he noted that it "does not exclude a cooperate in a future," when speaking at the Paris Auto Show.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk added another gentle nudge on Twitter a few weeks later. After someone inquired about the need for a "tough as nails" electric van, Musk replied with, "Maybe interesting to work with Daimler/Mercedes on an electric Sprinter. That's a great van. We will inquire."
In a follow-up tweet, Musk explained that one of two things would have to happen for there to be an electric Tesla van. Either a partnership with Mercedes where Tesla provides the battery, powertrain and "compute tech" while Mercedes produces the rest of the car, or Tesla goes at it alone and produces the vehicle later.
In the latter case, Tesla has a "lot on our plate," Musk said, explaining that the present priority list goes as follows: The Model Y, Solar Roof, Tesla Pickup (which he's most excited about), Tesla Semi and the Roadster.
Of course, none of this solidifies a partnership or equity stake with Mercedes-Benz or Daimler. But the fact that the leaders for both companies have openly expressed their willingness to work together within just a few weeks of each other does show some potential for the future.
It likely helps that Tesla's situation continues to improve, both operationally and financially. As the company continues to improve vehicle production -- both from a quantity and quality standpoint -- and as its financial situation improves, automakers are more likely to show willingness to work with it. Why? Because no one wants to partner with a company that could go bankrupt at a moment's notice.
So as these situations improve, companies like Mercedes are more likely to consider working with Tesla.
Other factors include Tesla's electric car capabilities and its Supercharger Network. As it stands now, German luxury car makers are starting to get serious about electric and hybrid alternatives. Porsche and Audi, two Volkswagen (VLKAY) brands, along with BMW (BMWYY) and Mercedes-Benz have several electric vehicle offerings coming to market over the next several years.
The head scratcher, though? With years to catch up to the Model S, X and 3 and a far-superior R&D budget to Tesla, why do so many of these electric vehicles fail to live up to the performance specs of a Tesla?
Don't get me wrong, some of these vehicles are downright beautiful and pack a punch when it comes to performance. It just seems that a big argument from the bears was that Porsche, Mercedes and the like would mop the floor with Tesla. That doesn't seem to be the case -- not by a long shot.
Further, where are these vehicles going to charge? Musk has shown a willingness to work with other electric car manufacturers so others can use Tesla's Supercharging Network. But without it, where's the Porsche Taycan going to recharge on a road trip? How will the Mercedes EQC drive across the country? These are serious questions and show that Tesla may have more partnership leverage than critics give it credit for.
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This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author had no positions in the stocks mentioned.