Mercedes, of course, is already planning to launch a battery-electric version of its commercial cargo van called the eSprinter next year. But Musk, in a Twitter thread, explains that Tesla has a "Lot on our plate" and could source "glider" versions of the eSprinter from Mercedes with the battery, powertrain and computer system stripped out in order to get a Tesla-fied cargo van on the road more quickly. "Priority list is Model Y, solar roof tiles, pickup, semi, Roadster," he adds, helpfully.
As with many things that Musk says on Twitter, it's unclear how seriously we should take this; Autoblog sought comment from Tesla's PR unit.
Maybe interesting to work with Daimler/Mercedes on an electric Sprinter. That's a great van. We will inquire.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 19, 2018
Lot on our plate, so it's either get van gliders (no battery, powertrain or compute tech) from Daimler & produce sooner or do all & produce later. Not a big difference to total vehicles produced either way. Priority list is Model Y, solar roof tiles, pickup, semi, Roadster.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 19, 2018
But it's worth noting that Daimler and Tesla have tangoed together before. Back in 2009, in the depths of the Great Recession, Daimler spent $50 million to acquire a 10-percent stake in Tesla, a move that Musk credited with "saving Tesla" in a 2012 interview with Autoblog. Tesla previously supplied battery packs and drivetrains for the Mercedes-Benz B Class Electric Drive, but Daimler, seeing the two companies increasingly as EV competitors, sold all its remaining shares by 2014 to begin separating technologies.
It's also unclear how such a deal would benefit either company. Mercedes' eSprinter will come in two versions: one with a 41 kWh battery providing 71.5 miles of range, and a more powerful 55 kWh variant with 93.2 miles of driving range. Daimler also plans to launch the eVito passenger van and a smaller eCitan. And while Tesla doesn't currently have anything for the cargo van segment, it is working on its electric Semi, which promises to have a 500-mile driving range and is supposed to go into production in 2019.