Tesla losing a big partner. Panasonic said Wednesday it's withdrawing from its deal with Tesla to produce solar cells at a plant in Buffalo, New York. The Japanese electronics company said it'll stop production in May and exit the factory by September.
Panasonic employs about 380 of the more than 1500 workers at the plant. It said Tesla hopes to hire many of those workers for its operations in Buffalo. The Wall Street Journal reports Tesla told New York officials it'll keep producing solar panels there.
The move is another sign of Tesla's fraying relationship with its Japanese partner. Panasonic status as the electric vehicle maker's exclusive automotive battery supplier is ending, and Tesla is set to diversify its battery supplies with other Asian companies. Panasonic said it'll keep producing batteries with Tesla at its joint venture plant in Nevada.
Panasonic's exit from the Buffalo factory also increases uncertainty over Tesla's solar business. It had initially planned to sell the cells it makes there to Tesla for the so-called Solar Roof that resembles regular roof tiles. But it ships most of those cells to overseas customers because demand from Tesla has been low. Tesla has been scaling back its solar business since it bought it three years ago.
Tesla shares lost ground at the open Wednesday despite the bounce in the broader market.