Tesla Motors’ loss widens 177% in 2010


Tesla Motors Inc. saw its loss increase 177% last year, as research, marketing and manufacturing expenses piled on for the young electric-vehicle company.

The Palo Alto automaker said the loss ballooned to $154.3 million in 2010 from $55.7 million in 2009. After its June initial public offering, it became the only publicly held automaker in California.

Tesla’s loss for the fourth quarter that ended Dec. 31 was $51.4 million, company executives said Tuesday.


Founded in 2003, Tesla has garnered a lot of attention for its high-priced electric car that has been bought by the likes of Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio. So far that vehicle — the $100,000 electric Roadster sports car, is the company’s only product. It has delivered about 1,500 of the Roadsters.

To get the company into the black, Chief Executive Elon Musk is pinning his hopes on Tesla’s upcoming Model S sedan.

The company plans to make 20,000 Model S units a year, and will start selling the vehicles in the second half of 2012. The car will sell for about $50,000 after government incentives. So far, the company has received more than 3,700 reservations for the vehicle and has completed a test version.

“The highlight of the quarter was our on-time completion of the first drivable Model S alpha,” Musk said. “We believe the Model S is well on its way toward becoming the vehicle of choice for 2012.”

Last month, the company said it planned to make a small sport-utility vehicle called the Model X, set to arrive in 2014.

In 2010, Tesla’s revenue jumped to $116.7 million, up $4.8 million from the year before. In the fourth quarter, revenue was $36.3 million, a 95% improvement from a year earlier.


The company said the revenue boost was, in part, due to its partnership with Daimler, which ordered 1,800 sets of battery packs and chargers from Tesla for its Smart Fortwo electric vehicle.

For the future, Panasonic is pairing with the automaker to work on next-generation electric-vehicle batteries. Tesla also hooked up with Toyota Motor Corp. in the fourth quarter to make an electric version of the RAV4 compact SUV, with sales to start next year. The deal is expected to generate as much as $69 million for Tesla over the next year or so.

Tesla’s Roadster didn’t make it onto a list of greenest 2011 model year vehicles released Tuesday by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. Instead, the natural gas-powered Honda Civic GX topped the rankings, followed by the new all-electric Nissan Leaf.

Several cars with conventional gasoline engines made the cut, as did the Toyota Prius hybrid. The plug-in electric Chevrolet Volt squeaked into the last of 12 spots.

“Vehicles running on electricity emit nothing from the tailpipe, but their upstream emissions can be substantial,” said Therese Langer, the organization’s director, referring to the environmental impact of electricity generation. “As U.S. power generation becomes cleaner, these vehicles’ scores will rise.”

Tesla released its earnings after the close of regular trading Tuesday. During the session, Tesla shares slumped 24 cents, or 1%, to $22.84.