It’s been a grueling year for Tesla Motors. The company angered many of its employees last year when it laid off nearly its entire Michigan staff, which first found out they were losing their jobs not from Tesla itself, but by a posting on a financial blog. Later in the year, Tesla seemed poised to make a comeback, announcing its sporty new Tesla Roadster Sport electric vehicle, available for those who preordered the Roadster. However, it then proceeded to anger customers who preordered by raising the price on the base Roadster model.
However, despite its trials and tribulations, the fledgling company says it will be sold out of Roadsters until around November and that by the middle of the year it should finally be posting profits. Founder and Chief Executive Elon Musk, who became a billionaire by founding PayPal, also announced that Tesla will be receiving a $350M USD federal loan from the U.S. Department of Energy to help finance the development of its upcoming electric 4-door sedan, to be released in 2011.
Mr. Musk praised the Obama administration for its helping hand, stating, "The Obama administration has thankfully made it a top priority to move quickly on the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan program."
Tesla has experienced some preorder customers cancelling their orders "due to buyers experiencing personal financial difficulties". However, there seems to be plenty who have the money and still want to get the hot new car. It expects all of its 2009 production of the $109,000 vehicles to sell out.
In 2008, Tesla cut 24 percent of its staff, but it managed to produce 200 Roadsters, and is still sitting on 1,000 reported preorders. Customers pay $12,000 up front to reserve the right to own one of the hot new vehicles. Battery packs for the vehicle are reported to last 7 years or 100,000 miles and cost around a staggering $36,000 to replace.
The prototype of the upcoming Model S 4-door sedan will be unveiled on March 26, according to Mr. Musk. He says that he will be offering a discount of $10,000 to those who preordered the Roadster and want to switch to the sedan as a "gesture of gratitude for their early support."
Tesla also recently announced a partnership with Germany's Daimler AG to create a plug-in version of Daimler's Smart minicar. Mr. Musk announced that he is currently in the pursuit of two more major deals with other companies. He also announced that Tesla is set to open stores in Chicago and London and is close to reaching agreements for stores in Miami, New York, Seattle and Munich.