Tesla Motors intends to spark the public's passion and eco-conscience for electric vehicles. Founded in 2003, the company designs, manufactures, and markets high-performance electric cars and powertrain components. Tesla stylish Roadster is its flagship model, which the company continues to upgrade. The Roadster's operating specs include zero to 60 in less than four seconds and a top speed of 125 mph. The fuel-efficient, fully electric vehicle recharges its lithium-ion batteries from an outlet, and, depending on a driver's speed, is capable of 245 miles per charge. Roadsters are based on Lotus' Elise model; their UK assembly is shifting to a California facility. In mid-2010 Tesla became a publicly-held company.
The company's initial public offering raised more than $200 million; it was the first IPO for a carmaker since Ford's in 1956. Half of the proceeds serve as a reservoir for expenditures otherwise funded by a US Department of Energy $465 million loan, which was authorized in mid-2009 under the federal government's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program. Specifically, Tesla expects that the cash infusion from investors will cover construction costs not funded by the loan. Some $33 million is earmarked for developing powertrains and building future vehicle models.
The company's luxury Tesla Roadster, and its subsequent upgrades, the Tesla Roadster 2, Roadster Sport, and Roadster 2.5, are the first in a line of electric vehicles offered largely in the US, Europe, and Canada via its 16 Tesla-owned stores, at corporate events, and through the Internet. And while sales and customer reservations for the cars have soared (The company sold about 1,500 of the high-priced vehicles in 2010.), so too have costs. Despite efforts to trim its operating expenses, the company continues to operate at a loss, due in large part to high sales and R&D costs.
Looking ahead, Tesla is focused on boosting revenues by expanding its line of automobiles. Its strategy includes developing new electric vehicles, such as the Model S and Model X, for a wider consumer base. To that end, Tesla acquired the NUMMI (an acronym for New United Motor Manufacturing) assembly plant in California, formerly operated via a Toyota-GM joint venture, for $42 million. Tesla intends to leverage the former NUMMI's resources to build the Model S and other planned vehicles. The plant's strategic location in a decidedly pro-green state promises a built-in market for Tesla's electric offerings. Tesla intends to launch its Model S by mid 2012; its Model X, a cross-over built on the Model S platform, is expected to follow.
The company is also focused on developing electric vehicles and components alongside other carmakers. Tesla, which recently received a $50 million private placement for its stock from Toyota, teamed up with the #1 carmaker to jointly develop electric vehicles and share production techniques. In a separate agreement, Tesla signed on to develop an electric powertrain for Toyota's RAV4 compact SUV.
Other key collaborative agreements between Tesla and OEMs include developing powertrains for Daimler. Tesla also supplies lithium-ion battery packs and charging electronics for the German carmaker's electric smart car. In 2010 it agreed to develop and produce a battery pack and charger for a pilot fleet of Daimler's A-Class electric vehicles, set to launch in Europe in 2011. For Daimler affiliate Freightliner, Tesla is supplying modular battery packs to power electric vans. In late 2010 Japan-based electronics manufacturer Panasonic agreed to acquire a small stake in Tesla for $30 million. The two companies will also team up to develop electric-vehicle batteries.
Tesla Motors is named for Nikola Tesla (1856-1943), the renowned Serbian-American engineer and inventor. Founder and CEO Elon Musk is the electric vehicle maker's largest shareholder, holding more than a 28% stake in the company. – less