We’ve been following Tesla’s story pretty much since it began in 2003. Many have predicted its demise, as history is littered with examples of failures in the automotive business. Chief Executive Officer of Tesla Elon Musk is determined to make sure his company isn’t one of them. Tesla is a modern day effort at upending the automotive industry, on the level of efforts like Tucker.
Tesla has serious cash behind it though: hundreds of millions is private investment, a $226 million Initial Public Offering and $465 million in loans from the Department of Energy. To give you an idea of just how rare a new volume automaker is, the Tesla IPO was the first to be undertaken by an American automaker since Ford in 1956. That is all needed to produce the Model S, a highly ambitious product.
The real test will come when the car actually goes on sale. Will the production process go as planned? Will there be enough buyers? If there is, will Tesla be able to make enough money on each? Those are questions we have all been asking. The Model S is do-or-die for Tesla; the time has come to turn the company into a profitable business.
Today a new report on Tesla by Automotive News details a visit to Tesla’s plant, the former NUMMI factory in Fremont, California. The factory is gearing up to start production of the Model S in January or February of next year. The first preproduction car is being assembled starting today, October 17th with completion scheduled for sometime in November. Paint technology from BASF AG, automatic guided carts to move cars down the line and a raised bamboo-floored stage that Tesla uses for quality inspections have all been installed within the past month.
Musk isn’t one to avoid hubris, proclaiming the Model S “not the best electric car (but) the best car of any kind.” His reasoning? “It’s about the same external dimensions as a 5-series BMW, yet has twice the cargo capacity. It’s got the biggest sunroof of any car. The fit and finish are superior to any premium sedan. We have the most advanced paint shop in the industry…..if you drive another premium sedan after driving the Model S, it’s going to feel like a jalopy.”
That’s a tall order to live up to. There is a lot of other interesting tidbits in the lengthy piece, such as the fact that Tesla only plans to use about 20 percent of their factory’s capacity. Everything appears to be moving forward as planned with the Model S. With it holding the promise of excellence in every area, the Model S already looks like one of the most desirable cars on the market. We hope it lives up to its promise. If it does we don’t think Tesla will have trouble selling at the volumes it is aiming for.