History of Tesla, Inc.

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This is the corporate history of Tesla, Inc., an 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] The AC Propulsion tzero also inspired the companies first vehicle the Roadster.[3]

Martin Eberhard was the original CEO of Tesla until he was asked to resign in August 2007 by the board of directors.[4][5][6] 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.[6][7] 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 into more mainstream vehicles, including sedans and affordable compacts.[8]

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.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11] Musk received the Global Green 2006 product design award for his design of the Tesla Roadster, presented by Mikhail Gorbachev,[12] and he received the 2007 Index Design award for his design of the Tesla Roadster.[13]

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.[14] 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.[6] In January 2008, Tesla fired several key personnel who had been involved from the inception after a performance review by the new CEO.[15] 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.[16] 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.[6] Drori became vice-chairman, but then left the company in December. In December a fifth round turned into debt financing and added another US$40 million avoiding bankruptcy.[17][18]

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.[16][19] 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.[20] In July 2009, Daimler announced that Abu Dhabi's Aabar Investments bought 40% of Daimler's interest in Tesla.[21][citation needed]

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.[22] 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.[23] 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.[24]

The company announced in early August 2009 that it had achieved overall corporate profitability for the month of July 2009.[25] 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.[26] Daimler participated in the round to maintain equity ownership from its initial investment.[27]

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).[28] 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,[29] when production ended,[needs update] mostly because of tooling changes orchestrated by one of its suppliers.[30] 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.[31]

IPO and Model S[edit]

On January 29, 2010, Tesla Motors filed Form S-1 with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission,[32] 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[33][34] to close immediately after the IPO.[35] Executives at both companies said that they would cooperate on "the development of electric vehicles, parts, and production system and engineering support."[34] 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.[36] In October 2014, both Daimler and Toyota sold their holdings of Tesla shares[37][38] with a combined profit of over $1 billion.[39]

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.[40] The IPO raised US$226 million for the company.[41] It was the first American car maker to go public since the Ford Motor Company had its IPO in 1956,[42] and by 2014 Tesla had market value half that of Ford.[43] 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.[44][45]

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.[46] 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.[47] Despite the drop, Tesla was still the top performer on the Nasdaq 100 index in 2013.[48] 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,[49] but it later reduced its guidance on sales down to 33,000 units for 2014 in November 2014.[50] As of 2014, Tesla has a US Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) of 276 mpg.[51]

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.[52] 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.[53] 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.[54] 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.[55]

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,[56][57] adding up to 80,000 to 90,000 new Model S and Model X vehicles in 2016.[58] 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.[59][60] 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.[61][62]

SolarCity acquisition[edit]

On August 1, 2016, Tesla agreed to acquire SolarCity Corp. for $2.6 billion in stock. SolarCity was then the largest installer of rooftop solar systems in the United States.[63] More than 85% of unaffiliated Tesla and SolarCity shareholders voted to approve the acquisition,[64][65] which closed on November 21, 2016.[66]

After it acquired SolarCity, Tesla stopped using door to door sales tactics for solar systems; instead, it markets and sells its products at company showrooms. For a short duration, Tesla partnered with Home Depot to sell solar and energy products through in store kiosks.[67] It also does not provide a leasing option for solar panels, and consumers must purchase them.[68]

Model 3 rollout[edit]

The Tesla Model 3 first deliveries event took place on July 28, 2017.

Model 3 was unveiled in March 2016. A week after the unveiling, global reservations totaled 325,000 units.[69][70] As a result of the demand for Model 3, in May 2016, Tesla advanced its 500,000 annual unit build plan (for all models) by two years to 2018.[71][60] On February 1, 2017 the company changed its name from Tesla Motors to Tesla.[72][73] In late March 2017, Tesla Inc. announced that Tencent Holdings Ltd., at the time China's "most valuable company," had purchased a 5% stake in Tesla for $1.8 billion.[74] In 2017, Tesla briefly surpassed Ford Motor Company and General Motors in market capitalization for a couple of months, making it the most valuable American automaker.[75][76] In June 2017, Tesla appeared for the first time in the Fortune 500 list.[75]

In the week preceding the debut on July 7, 2017, of the Model 3 sedan, Tesla's stock-market value declined by more than $12 billion from a previous value of $63 billion. The loss was a result of a combination of factors that disappointed investors. Demand for Tesla's luxurious existing models, Model S and Model X, did not grow in the second quarter.[77] Brian Johnson of Barclays said that customer deposits for the Model S and Model X fell by $50 million, potentially indicating that Tesla's introduction of the Model 3 could be adversely affecting their sales. Tesla predicted that luxury sales would reach 100,000 per year, below some analysts' expectations.[78]

Investors expressed concern about Tesla's plans for execution and competitive risk, as Volvo Cars committed to introduce only electric and electric-assisted vehicles by 2019.[79][77] Johnson claimed that "Tesla will face intense competition by the next decade."[80]

Morningstar analyst David Whiston foresaw a revised, slower timetable for the Model 3 and a company acknowledgement of problems with building battery packs for its cars. In 2016 Musk predicted 100,000 Model 3 units would be sold in 2017, but that production may reach only 20,000 by December. Axel Schmidt, a managing director at consulting firm Accenture, said that Tesla's problems with Gigafactory 1 prove that increasing Model 3 production "remains a huge challenge".[80] In October 2017, Tesla reported delivery of 220 Model 3s, acknowledging this was "less than anticipated due to production bottlenecks".[81]

In early November 2017, Musk advised investors of a production delay that was primarily due to difficulties with the new battery that would allow Tesla to significantly reduce the manufacturing cost of the Model 3. The company was having difficulties with robots on the assembly line[82] but the most serious issue was with one of the four zones in the battery manufacturing, caused by a "systems integration subcontractor", according to Musk.[83] "We had to rewrite all of the software from scratch for the battery module", he reported.[84] He assured investors that Tesla had "reallocated" top engineers to work on achieving a solution. By that time, Jon Wagner, director of battery engineering, had left the company.[85] Also in November, Musk postponed the target date for manufacturing 5000 of the vehicles per week from December 2017 to "sometime in March" 2018;[82] about which an analyst with Cowan and Company commented that "Elon Musk needs to stop over promising and under delivering".[86] On November 21, 2017, Bloomberg stated that "over the past 12 months, the electric-car maker has been burning money at a clip of about $8,000 a minute (or $480,000 an hour)" preparing for Model 3.[87]

In April 2018, Musk increased the 5000 per week number by 20%; forecasting Tesla could achieve 6,000 units per week by the end of June 2018.[88] When asked when the company would reach a production level of 10,000 units per week, he declined to speculate.[84]

For Q2 2018, Tesla reported delivery of 28,578 Model 3 vehicles, which exceeded combined Model S and X production (24,761), almost three times the amount of Model 3's than in Q1.[89]

For Q3 2018, Tesla reported delivery of 55,840 Model 3 vehicles.[90]

For Q4 2018, Tesla reported delivery of 63,150 Model 3 vehicles.[91]

2018 consideration of taking Tesla private[edit]

In an August 7, 2018 tweet, major Tesla stockholder and Tesla CEO Elon Musk stated: "Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured."[92][93] On Tesla's blog Musk elaborated that Tesla's status as a public company subjects it to the quarterly earnings cycle that puts enormous pressure on the company to make decisions that may be right for a given quarter, but not necessarily right for the company's long-term growth. Additionally, as the most shorted stock in the history of the stock market, being a publicly traded company means that there are large numbers of investors who may have the incentive to attack the company.[94] Musk released a considerably more detailed statement on the Tesla Blog the following week indicating that the proposal was by him in his personal capacity, and not as CEO of Tesla. Furthermore, he indicated that he had high confidence in the funding being secured based on discussions with the managing director of the Saudi sovereign wealth fund who had requested Musk consider taking Tesla private and indicated strong capital support for doing so.[95] On August 24 Musk released a statement indicating that both he and the Tesla Board of Directors had made the decision for the company to remain traded on the public stock markets.[96][97] In September 2018, Musk was sued by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for the tweet claiming that funding had been secured for taking Tesla private. The lawsuit characterized the tweet as false, misleading, and damaging to investors, and sought to bar Musk from serving as CEO on publicly traded companies.[98][99] Musk settled with the SEC two days later. The settlement terms required Musk to leave as chairman, and prohibited him from running for chairman again for three years. Additionally, he and Tesla Inc. were fined $20M each to reimburse investors whom were harmed by Musk's tweet.[100][101]

In November 2018, Tesla vehicles outsold Mercedes-Benz in the United States market for the first time.[102]

Financials[edit]

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,[103][104] in February 2014 $2 billion from bonds (building GigaFactory),[104] in August 2015 $738 million in stock (for the Model X),[105] and in May 2016 $1.46 billion in stock ($1.26 billion for the Model 3).[106] Tesla has raised over $4.5 billion since the IPO in 2010.[107] As of January 29, 2016, Musk owns about 28.9 million Tesla shares, which equates to about 22% of the company.[108][109] Tesla entered the Interbrand Top100 Best Global Brands in 2016 in position 100 with a brand value of $4 billion.[110] On October 26, 2016, Tesla posted a profitable quarter, their first in 8 quarters, defying industry expectations.[111]

Timeline of production and sales[edit]

Global sales passed 250,000 units in September 2017,[112][113] and Tesla produced its 300,000th vehicle in February 2018.[114] Tesla's global sales achieved the 500,000 unit milestone in December 2018.[115]

10,000
20,000
30,000
40,000
50,000
60,000
70,000
80,000
90,000
100,000
Q3 2012
Q4
Q1
Q2 2013
Q3
Q4
Q1
Q2 2014
Q3
Q4
Q1
Q2 2015
Q3
Q4
Q1
Q2 2016
Q3
Q4
Q1
Q2 2017
Q3
Q4
Q1
Q2 2018
Q3
Q4
  •   Model S
  •   Model X
  •   Model 3
Quarter Total

production

Model S

sales

Model X

sales

Model 3

sales

Total

sales[a]

In transit[b] Source
Q1 2015 11,160 10,045 10,045 [116]
Q2 2015 12,807 11,532 11,532 [117]
Q3 2015 13,091 11,597 6 11,603 [118]
Q4 2015 14,037 17,272 206 17,478 [119]
Q1 2016 15,510 12,420 2,400 14,820 2,615 [120]
Q2 2016 18,345 9,764 4,638 14,402 5,150 [121][122]
Q3 2016 25,185 16,047 8,774 24,821 5,065 [123]
Q4 2016[c] 24,882 12,700 9,500 22,254 6,450 [124][125]
Q1 2017 25,418 ~13,450 ~11,550 25,051 ~4,650 [126]
Q2 2017 25,708 ~12,000 ~10,000 22,026 ~3,500 [127][128]
Q3 2017 25,336 14,065 11,865 222 26,137 4,820 [129][112]
Q4 2017 24,565 ~15,200 ~13,120 1,542 29,967 3,380 [130][131]
Q1 2018 34,494 11,730 10,070 8,182 29,997 6,100 [132]
Q2 2018 53,339 10,930 11,370 18,440 40,740 15,058 [133][134]
Q3 2018 80,142 14,470 13,190 56,065 83,725 11,824 [135][136]
Q4 2018 86,555 13,500 14,050 63,150 90,700 2,907 [137]
  1. ^ Sales are only counted as sold when delivered to end customer and all paperwork is correct
  2. ^ Goods in transit are produced but not counted as sold until delivered
  3. ^ Sales by model do not add up to total, these are preliminary figures reported by Tesla. Only total sales is final figures are reported by Tesla, as breakdown by model is not typically provided.

Tesla deliveries vary significantly by month due to regional issues such as ship availability and registration. Tesla does not follow the auto industry standard of monthly reporting.[138] Some monthly sales are estimated by media.[139]

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.[140]

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