March 22, 2014

Tesla Motors History Timeline

This article is a part of the article series Tesla Motors Stock Analysis

If you've found this page you probably know what Tesla Motors is, and if you don't know you will in a near future understand why you should keep an eye on the company. Tesla Motor's history can be described as a roller coaster as there have been many ups and downs, including a near death experience in late 2008. This timeline will be updated until Tesla Motors has achieved its vision (or gone bankrupt) to
"Create the most compelling car company of the 21st century by driving the world's transition to electric vehicles."

But we begin from the beginning:

1900. 38 percent of US automobiles are powered by electricity. But as Henry Ford designed the much cheaper T-Ford, the electric cars began to disappear
1970s. The price of gasoline reaches record prices because of a series of energy crises, so the interest in electric cars increases again
1996-1999. General Motors produced an electric car called EV1. Other auto manufacturers, including Toyota, produced other electric cars
2002
  • January. The co-workers Martin Heberhard and Marc Tarpenning founded Tesla Motors with the goal to reinvent the electric car and transform traditional car manufacturing into a clean technology industry
2003
  • General Motors canceled the EV1 program. They said they couldn't sell enough cars to make the EV1 profitable
  • April. Tarpenning bought the domain name teslamotors.com
  • July. CEO Martin Heberhard and Marc Tarpenning formally incorporated Tesla Motors. They had earlier made a feasibility study to see if they could make an electric car. They now made a feasibility study together with a small company called AC Propulsion to see if the batteries would work
  • November. The 2 employees searched for a partner to build the rest of the car. Lotus became their choice
2004
  • February. Ian Wright, who knew Martin Eberhard, joined the company. They finished business plan 1.0
  • March. Starting a car company is expensive, so they began to look for outside investors
  • April. Series A funding where Elon Musk was the main investor. Other investors included SDL Ventures and Compass Technology Partners. JB Straubel joined the company as employee number 5
  • May. An early styling study began
Early Tesla Roadster design.
  • June. A technology implementation study began
  • July. Tesla had 9 employees and moved to an office in San Carlos, California. They also made a "mule" which is a car that doesn't reproduce but you can see if the concept works. To design Mule 1, they bought an old Lotus Elise
  • October. The 15 employees began to design the drive-train component
  • November. They installed the drive-train in the Mule 1
  • December. Tesla couldn't use the same design as the Lotus Elise, so they had a contest where Barney Hatt made the best design
The Tesla Roadster design by Barney Hatt.
2005
  • January. They made a 1/4 scale model in clay. Tesla had now 18 employees and they also took out Mule 1 for a test drive
Tesla Roadster clay model.
  • February. The now 23 employee strong company needed more money, so they made a series B funding. Not only Elon Musk invested more money, but also Valor Equity Partners. Tesla opened an office in UK close to the Lotus office
  • April-June. Tesla made a full-scale model in clay of the Tesla Roadster
  • July. With 38 employees, they tested a plastic model of the Roadster in a wind tunnel
A plastic model of the Tesla Roadster
  • August. Some of the 41 employees began developing a motor
  • December. 63 employees and they began to build the Mule 2 in fiberglass
2006
  • January. A drivable Mule 2 was finished
  • April. The engineers thought the Roadster was finished so they made 10 engineering prototypes (EP), which compared to a Mule can (in theory) be produced
  • May. 92 employees and they finished the first EP, called EP 1. Tesla raised a series C round led by Vantage Point Partners and Elon Musk
  • July. Almost no-one knew that Tesla existed, until now when Tesla showed EP 1 and EP 2 in Santa Monica, California
  • August. 100 employees. Why did they make 10 EPs? So they could test-crash a few of them. Tesla had earlier crashed a few virtual cars, but they needed to know if the computers models were accurate. They began to show the Roadster at events to market it
Tesla Roadster crash test.
  • September. 120 employees. They made more tests, including radiated emissions and susceptibility testing
  • October. They made a durability test, which consists of driving the Roadster on a cobblestone racetrack. The idea is to simulate 100,000 miles in 6 months. It would have taken more time to drive the same distance on a smooth road. Tesla realized their computer models were inaccurate - the Roadster's transmission didn't survive the durability test
  • November. 144 employees, and more tests, including driving through a salt-water bath
  • December. They showed the EP 2 at the Los Angeles Auto Show
2007
  • January. Tesla brought the Roadster to Arvidsjaur, Sweden, to see if it could survive winter conditions
Tesla Roadster in Arvidsjaur, Sweden.
  • February. 205 employees. Tesla began to build a validation prototype (VP), where they took everything they learned from the engineering prototype. Tesla says it will build a $35 million plant in Albuquerque, to produce the Model S
  • March. 230 employees and they finished the VP 1
  • April. Raised more money - a series D round led by Elon Musk, Technology Partners, and Vantage Point
  • June. Tesla's motor factory in Taiwan was finished and it began producing parts
  • July. A new transmission was finished
  • August. Tesla finished the VP 10. CEO Martin Eberhard was replaced by Tesla investor Michael Marks, who would work as an interim-CEO until Tesla found a long-term CEO
  • September. Tesla delayed the launch of the Roadster because they needed more time to test its durability
  • October. It turned out that also the new transmission failed in the durability test. Tesla needed yet another transmission
  • November. Martin Eberhard had to leave the company against his will and he sued Tesla because he felt he was mistreated
Martin Eberhard with his Tesla Roadster
  • December. Interim CEO Michael Marks was replaced by interim CEO Ze'ev Drori
2008
  • January. 260 employees. The VPs survived the new tests, so the Roadster was finished - except for the transmission
  • March. Tesla began production of the Roadster
  • April. More money - a bridge financing led by Elon Musk and Valor Equity Partners
  • May. Opened a retail store in Los Angeles, and they also finished a new transmission
  • June. Opened a second retail store in Menlo Park, California, and they also delivered the first Roadster to the customers. Marc Tarpenning decided to leave Tesla. The Model S was announced in a press release
  • August. Franz von Holzhausen joined Tesla Motors as Chief Designer
Franz von Holzhausen with a clay Model S.
  • October. Elon Musk became the CEO after interviewing more than 20 prospective CEOs
  • November. Tesla revealed it had requested about $400 million in loans for the Model S and powertrain manufacturing, under the Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) program
  • December. 252 employees
2009
  • March. Tesla unveiled two Model S prototypes in a design studio close to the CEO Elon Musk's other company, SpaceX. Tesla began taking reservations for the Model S. More than 500 people reserved the car in the first week
Tesla Model S prototype.
  • May. Agreed with Daimler to produce a battery pack and charger for Smart Fortwo. Product recall 1: An insufficient torquing of the rear inner hub flange bolt (Was actually Lotus's fault)
  • June. Tesla got approval for $465 million in low-interest loans from the Department of Energy. Delivered Roadster number 500
  • December. 514 employees
2010
  • January. Tesla registered for an initial public offering of stock. Announced that Tesla would collaborate with Panasonic. Delivered Roadster number 1000
  • May. Tesla bought NUMMI - a former Toyota and General Motors factory in Fremont, California. Toyota and Tesla announced they will cooperate on electric vehicle development. Agreed with Daimler to produce a battery pack and charger for A-Class
  • June. Tesla shares began trading on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange
  • July. Toyota bought 2 941 176 shares of Tesla stock. Recruited Apple veteran George Blankenship to build Tesla's stores
  • October. Product recall 2: A cable in a single vehicle chafed against the edge of a panel in the vehicle
  • November. Panasonic bought 1 418 573 shares of Tesla stock
  • December. 899 employees
2011
  • Began crash testing Model S
  • September. 100th Roadster delivered to Switzerland
  • December. 1417 employees
2012
  • January. After manufacturing 2500 cars, Tesla ended production of the Roadster to focus on the Model S
  • February. Tesla revealed the Model X prototype - a small SUV
  • June. The Model S was officially launched at the Fremont factory. Retail deliveries of the Model S started in the United States
The first Model S delivery with Tesla investor Steve Jurvetson (left) and JB Straubel.
  • September. Unveiled the Supercharger network
  • December. 2964 employees
2013
  • April. Began offering a resale value guarantee to Model S buyers in US
  • May. Repaid the loan from DOE
  • June. Product recall 3: 1 000 Model S needed a new rear seat striker (connects the rear seat when not folded down)
  • July. Agreed with Daimler to produce a powertrain for B-Class Mercedes-Benz
  • August. Opened the Tilburg Assembly Plant. First Supercharger in Europe (Norway). First Model S delivery in Europe
  • December. 5859 employees. Delivered a total of 22 477 Model S in North America and Europe in 2013
Future events
2014
  • January. Product recall 4: Not a recall - but the software needed an update
  • February. 90 Superchargers in North America and Europe
  • June. First Model S with steering wheel on the right side
  • Q4. A production design Model X prototype on the road
  • First Supercharger in Asia
  • First delivery to China
  • Plan to ramp up the sales of the Stationary Energy Storage Applications
2015
  • September. Delivery of the first Model X
  • Production of 100,000 cars per year
2016
  • Model III unveiled
2017
  • Model III in production
2020
  • Full production at the Tesla Gigafactory
  • Peak Oil, according to Elon Musk
  • Production of 500,000 cars per year
2025
  • In California (and other states who has adopted the law), 15.4 percent of each car manufacturer's cars must be zero emission vehicles

Learn more
If you are interested in learning more about the history of Tesla Motors, Elon Musk's other companies such as SolarCity, and the founder himself, you should read my new biography book on Elon Musk (413 pages).

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