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Tesla, Inc. (formerly Tesla Motors), founded in 2003, is an American multinational corporation based in Palo Alto, California, that specializes in electric vehicles, lithium-ion battery energy storage and solar panel manufacturing (through the subsidiary company SolarCity). As of June 2018, Tesla sells the Tesla Model S, Model X, Model 3, Powerwall and Powerpack batteries, solar panels, solar roof tiles, and related products.
CEO Elon Musk said that he envisions Tesla as a technology company and independent automaker, aimed at eventually offering electric cars at prices affordable to the average consumer. The company was named for the electrical engineer and physicist Nikola Tesla by company founders Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning.
The company's Model S was the world's best-selling plug-in electric car in 2015 and 2016. Global sales of the Model S reached the 200,000 unit milestone during the fourth quarter of 2017. In September 2015, the company released its Model X, a crossover SUV. The Model 3 was released in July 2017. Tesla production passed 300,000 vehicles in February 2018.
Tesla operates multiple production and assembly plants, notably Gigafactory 1 near Reno, Nevada and its main vehicle manufacturing facility at Tesla Factory in Fremont, California. The Gigafactory primarily produces batteries and battery packs for Tesla vehicles and energy storage products.
The company was founded in 2003 by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, although the company also considers Elon Musk, JB Straubel and Ian Wright as co-founders. The founders were influenced to start the company after GM recalled and destroyed its EV1 electric cars in 2003.
Eberhard and Tarpenning funded the company until the Series A round. Musk led the Series A in February 2004, joining the board of directors as its chairman as well as in operational roles. Musk was then the controlling investor in Tesla, providing the large majority of the US$7.5 million round with personal funds. Co-founder Martin Eberhard was the original CEO of Tesla until he was asked to resign in August 2007 by the board of directors. 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 CFO and subsequently the Vice President of Electrical Engineering of the company until 2008.
Tesla began with a sports car aimed at early adopters followed by mainstream and mass market vehicles, all serving "as a catalyst to accelerate the day of electric vehicles".
Tesla signed a Roadster production contract on July 11, 2005, with Group Lotus to produce "gliders" (complete cars but without powertrain).The Roadster used an AC motor descended directly from Nikola Tesla's original 1882 design.
The Tesla Roadster (2008) was the first production automobile to use lithium-ion battery cells and the first production EV with a range greater than 200 mi (320 km) per charge. Between 2008 and March 2012, Tesla sold more than 2,250 Roadsters in 31 countries. Tesla stopped taking orders for the Roadster in the U.S. market in August 2011.
In December 2012, Tesla employed almost 3,000 full-time employees. As of late 2016, Tesla employed more than 30,000 (25,000 in the US) after acquiring Grohmann and SolarCity.
Musk also led Tesla's Series B US$13 million investment round and co-led the third, US$40 million round in May 2006. Tesla's third round included investment from prominent entrepreneurs including Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page. The fourth round in May 2007 added another US$45 million.
In late 2007, Tesla brought on Michael Marks, and later Ze'ev Drori, to replace Eberhard as CEO. Drori temporarily returned the company to profitability, reducing the company's workforce by about 10%. In October 2008, Musk became CEO and laid off an additional 25% of Tesla's workforce. In December, a fifth round added another US$40 million, avoiding bankruptcy.
By January 2009, Tesla had raised US$187 million and delivered 147 cars. Musk himself had invested US$70 million. In May 2009, Daimler AG acquired an equity stake of less than 10% of Tesla for a reported US$50 million, again saving Tesla. Toyota provided a similar amount in 2010.
In June 2009, Tesla was approved to receive US$465 million in low-interest loans from the 2007 US$8 billion Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program by the United States Department of Energy. The funding came in 2010 and supported engineering and production of the Model S, as well as the development of commercial powertrain technology.
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