History of Tesla Inc.

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This is a corporate history of Tesla, Inc., the electric automobile manufacturer founded in Palo Alto, California in 2003.

The beginnings - Roadster and private funding[edit]

Founded as Tesla Motors, Tesla Inc. was incorporated in July 2003 by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning who financed the company until the Series A round of funding.[1] The founders were influenced to start the company after GM recalled all its EV1 electric cars in 2003 and then destroyed them.[2] Both men played active roles in the company's early development prior to and after Elon Musk's involvement.[citation needed]

Martin Eberhard was the original CEO of Tesla until he was asked to resign in August 2007 by the board of directors.[3][4][5] Eberhard then took the title of "President of Technology" before ultimately leaving the company in January 2008 along with co-founder Marc Tarpenning, who served as the Vice President of Electrical Engineering of the company until 2008.[5][6] Musk led the Series A round of investment in February 2004, joining Tesla's board of directors as its chairman. Tesla's primary goal was to commercialize electric vehicles, starting with a premium sports car aimed at early adopters and then moving as rapidly as possible into more mainstream vehicles, including sedans and affordable compacts.[7]

Musk took an active role within the company and oversaw Roadster product design at a detailed level, but was not deeply involved in day-to-day business operations.[8] Eberhard acknowledged that Musk was the person who insisted from the beginning on a carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer body and he led design of components ranging from the power electronics module to the headlamps and other styling.[9] In addition to his daily operational roles, Musk was the controlling investor in Tesla from the first financing round, funding the large majority of the Series A capital investment round of US$7.5 million with personal funds.[citation needed]

The insignia of Tesla Motors as seen on a Tesla Roadster Sport

From the beginning, Musk consistently maintained that Tesla's long-term strategic goal was to create affordable mass market electric vehicles.[10] Musk received the Global Green 2006 product design award for his design of the Tesla Roadster, presented by Mikhail Gorbachev,[11] and he received the 2007 Index Design award for his design of the Tesla Roadster.[12]

Musk's Series A round included Compass Technology Partners and SDL Ventures, as well as many private investors. Musk later led Tesla Motors' Series B, US$13 million, investment round that added Valor Equity Partners to the funding team. Musk co-led the third, US$40 million round in May 2006 along with Technology Partners. Tesla's third round included investment from prominent entrepreneurs including Google co-founders Sergey Brin & Larry Page, former eBay President Jeff Skoll, Hyatt heir Nick Pritzker and added the VC firms Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Capricorn Management and The Bay Area Equity Fund managed by JPMorgan Chase.[13] The fourth round in May 2007 added another US$45 million and brought the total investments to over US$105 million through private financing.[citation needed]

In December 2007, Ze'ev Drori became CEO and President. He replaced Michael Marks, who had been brought in as an interim CEO in August 2007 to replace original CEO Martin Eberhard.[5] In January 2008, Tesla fired several key personnel who had been involved from the inception after a performance review by the new CEO.[14] According to Musk, Tesla was forced to reduce the company workforce by about 10% to lower its burn rate, which was out of control in 2007.[15] In May 2008, "The Truth About Cars" website launched a "Tesla Death Watch", as Tesla needed another round of finance to survive. In October 2008, Musk succeeded Drori as CEO and fired 25% of Tesla employees.[5] Drori became vice-chairman, but then left the company in December. In December a fifth round added another US$40 million avoiding bankruptcy.[16][17]

By January 2009, Tesla had raised US$187 million and delivered 147 cars. Musk had contributed US$70 million of his own money to the company.[15][18] On May 19, 2009, Germany's Daimler AG, maker of Mercedes-Benz, acquired an equity stake of less than 10% of Tesla for a reported US$50 million.[19] In July 2009, Daimler announced that Abu Dhabi's Aabar Investments bought 40% of Daimler's interest in Tesla.[20]

The Tesla obelisk is used to identify the Supercharger network sites in California.

2009 DOE loan[edit]

In June 2009 Tesla was approved to receive US$465 million in interest-bearing loans from the United States Department of Energy. The funding, part of the US$8 billion Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program, supported engineering and production of the Model S sedan, as well as the development of commercial powertrain technology.[21] The low-interest loan program was created in 2007 during the George W. Bush administration, and is not related to the "bailout" funds that GM and Chrysler received, nor are they related to the 2009 economic stimulus package.[22] Tesla repaid the loan in May 2013. Tesla was the first car company to have fully repaid the government, while Ford, Nissan and Fisker had not.[23]

The company announced in early August 2009 that it had achieved overall corporate profitability for the month of July 2009.[24] The company said it earned approximately US$1 million on revenue of US$20 million. Profitability arose primarily from improved gross margin on the 2010 Roadster, the second iteration of Tesla's award-winning sports car. Tesla, which like all automakers records revenue when products are delivered, shipped a record 109 vehicles in July and reported a surge in new Roadster purchases. In September 2009, Tesla announced a US$82.5 million round to accelerate Tesla's retail expansion.[25] Daimler participated in the round to maintain equity ownership from its initial investment.[citation needed]

Lotus supply of Roadster parts[edit]

Tesla Motors signed a production contract on July 11, 2005, with Group Lotus to produce "gliders" (complete cars minus powertrain).[26] The contract ran through March 2011, but the two automakers extended the deal to keep the electric Roadster in production through December 2011 with a minimum number of 2,400 units,[27] when production ended,[needs update] mostly because of tooling changes orchestrated by one of its suppliers.[28] In June 2010, it was reported that Tesla sold a total of US$12.2 million zero emission vehicle credits to other automakers, including Honda, up to March 31, 2010.[29]

IPO and Model S[edit]

On January 29, 2010, Tesla Motors filed Form S-1 with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission,[30] as a preliminary prospectus indicating its intention to file an initial public offering (IPO) underwritten by Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, J. P. Morgan, and Deutsche Bank Securities. On May 21, 2010, Tesla announced a "strategic partnership" with Toyota, which agreed to purchase US$50 million in Tesla common stock issued in a private placement[31][32] to close immediately after the IPO.[33] Executives at both companies said that they would cooperate on "the development of electric vehicles, parts, and production system and engineering support."[32] Less than two months later, Toyota and Tesla confirmed that their first platform collaboration would be to build an electric version of the RAV4 EV.[34] In October 2014, both Daimler and Toyota sold their holdings of Tesla shares[35][36] with a combined profit of over $1 billion.[37]

On June 29, 2010, Tesla Motors launched its initial public offering on NASDAQ. 13,300,000 shares of common stock were issued to the public at a price of US$17.00 per share.[38] The IPO raised US$226 million for the company.[39] It was the first American car maker to go public since the Ford Motor Company had its IPO in 1956,[40] and by 2014 Tesla had market value half that of Ford.[41] In early 2013, Tesla had problems producing the Model S, and was running out of money. Musk proposed a $6 billion deal with Google, but improved production and a sales push gave Tesla its first profitable quarter, and the deal was abandoned.[42][43]

During November 2013, Tesla's stock fell more than 20 percent, following news of a third Model S fire. All of those Model S fires had developed several minutes after the cars had struck significant road debris at high speeds and all of the vehicles had provided warnings to the occupants of serious battery damage, advising that an immediate stop was required. All three owners ordered new Model Ss. In the following months Tesla developed a battery protection system as a no-cost retrofit to all Model Ss.[44] No further regulatory action was taken, although there have been a few incidents since, most recently January 2016, with a charging Model S at a Norwegian Supercharger station.[45] Despite the drop, Tesla was still the top performer on the Nasdaq 100 index in 2013.[46] Tesla was seeking to sell 40,000 electric vehicles worldwide in 2014, adding China, Hong Kong, Japan, and Australia to the list of countries where it exports cars,[47] but it later reduced its guidance on sales down to 33,000 units for 2014 in November 2014.[48] As of 2014, Tesla has a US Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) of 276 mpg.[49]

Tesla makes its cars at the Tesla Factory in California. In October 2015, Tesla Motor announced the company was negotiating with the Chinese government on producing cars domestically. Local production has the potential to reduce the sales prices of Tesla models by a third. However, foreign automakers are generally required to establish a joint venture with a Chinese company to produce cars domestically.[50] Elon Musk clarified that production will remain in the U.S. in the foreseeable future, but if there's sufficient local demand for the Tesla Model 3 in China, a factory could be built in the country as soon as a year after the launch of the new model. Production in Europe will also depend on the region's demand for the Model 3.[51] Tesla is also planning to build a manufacturing plant in India, according to Tesla's Chief Information Officer, Jay Vijayan. This will help Tesla to avoid 100% import duty which is applicable on import of CBU (Completely Built Unit) cars in India.[52] Also Tesla is planning to build a battery plant in India. "Given high local demand, a Gigafactory in India would probably make sense in the long term," Musk said in response to a specific question about whether he would consider a factory in India too.[53]

Tesla announced in November 2015 that during the third quarter of 2015 it produced a record 13,091 vehicles, and also revised its target sales for 2015 to between 50,000 and 52,000 vehicles, including both of its models available for retail sales. The company expects to achieve an average production and deliveries of 1,600 to 1,800 vehicles per week for Model S and Model X combined during 2016,[54][55] adding up to 80,000 to 90,000 new Model S and Model X vehicles in 2016.[56] As a result of the high demand for Model 3, in May 2016 Tesla Motors announced its decision to advance its 500,000 total unit build plan (combined for Model S, Model X, and Model 3) to 2018, two years earlier than previously planned, in order to accelerate its target for Model 3 output.[57][58] This in turn can allow more Model 3 buyers to benefit from the $7,500 tax credit before the limit of 200,000 cars per maker since 2010 reduces the credit.[59][60]


Tesla has financed operations (production, development, administration, etc.) partly by sales income, stock offering and bond sales. In May 2013 Tesla raised $1.02 billion ($660m from bonds) partially to repay the DOE loans after their first profitable quarter,[61][62] in February 2014 $2 billion from bonds (building GigaFactory),[62] in August 2015 $738 million in stock (for the Model X),[63] and in May 2016 $1.46 billion in stock ($1.26 billion for the Model 3).[64] Tesla has raised over $4.5 billion since the IPO in 2010.[65] As of January 29, 2016, Musk owns about 28.9 million Tesla shares, which equates to about 22% of the company.[66][67] Tesla entered the Interbrand Top100 Best Global Brands in 2016 in position 100 with a brand value of $4 billion.[68] On October 26, 2016, Tesla posted a profitable quarter, their first in 8 quarters, defying industry expectations.[69]


Quarter Model S Model X Total In transit[a] Source
Q1 2015 10,030 0 10,030 [citation needed]
Q2 2015 11,507 0 11,507 [citation needed]
Q3 2015 13,091 6 13,097 [54]
Q4 2015 17,192 208 17,400 [56]
Q1 2016 12,420 2,400 14,820 2,615 [58]
Q2 2016 9,745 4,625 14,370 5,150 [70]
  1. ^ Goods in transit are produced but not counted as production until delivered

According to the Wall Street Journal, in September 2018, the company's stock fell to its lowest price in a year, closely around the time that CEO Elon Musk smoked marijuana during a live TV interview.[71]


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