Tesla Motors showed off potential future vehicles built on the company's electric-car technology, including a minivan and an SUV, as it prepares to launch an IPO.
An "IPO roadshow" video circulating online details Tesla Motors' strategy, including the use of an "adaptable common platform" and "common powertrain" to eventually, should the broader market opportunity exist, create electric vehicles such as a sedan, cabriolet, van or some sort of SUV. The company currently markets a sporty Tesla Roadster and is taking reservations for the even sportier, and still zero-emission, Tesla Model S. As far as sports cars go, your Tesla will be absolutely smoked by, say, a Bugatti Veyron, but the knowledge that you're leaving less of a carbon footprint will make it all worthwhile.
Comparisons to internal-combustion cars notwithstanding, Tesla Motors is angling to position itself as a forefront player in the growing electric-car movement. An IPO seems imminent, according to the rumor mill, perhaps within the next week.
A preliminary prospectus filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission June 15 indicates that, as of March 31, Tesla Motors had sold 1,063 Tesla Roadsters to individuals in 22 countries. By that same date, some 2,200 customers had reserved their Model S, which the company suggested will have "a significantly broader customer base than the Tesla Roadster." The Model S will apparently begin volume production in 2012, with a target of approximately 20,000 vehicles per year, and sell for $49,900 in the United States with a federal tax credit.
That prospectus also talks about how the company's underlying technology can be applied "to a variety of vehicle applications," including selling components such as battery packs and chargers to other auto manufacturers. Part of the plan involves using "the Model S platform to cost efficiently launch new electric vehicle models subsequent to the start of production of the Model S."
Despite that note of heady optimism, the paper contains a long list of risk factors, including the fact that Tesla Motors has "a history of losses and we expect significant increases in our costs and expenses to result in continuing losses for at least the foreseeable future." Also, "our production model for the non-powertrain portion of the Model S is unproven, still evolving and is very different from the non-powertrain portion of the production model for the Tesla Roadster."
Those issues could potentially be compounded by Tesla Motors head Elon Musk, the co-founder of PayPal, admitting in the course of divorce proceedings that he is, in fact, broke. "About four months ago, I ran out of cash," reads the Musk quote circulating online, including on The New York Times' DealBook blog. The admission has raised questions about his ability to keep Tesla Motors solvent, particularly once it goes public.
Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were major early investors in Tesla Motors, which first revealed its prototype for the Model S in March 2009. The zero-emission vehicle can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in under 6 seconds and hit a top speed of 130 miles an hour, and features a 17-inch touch screen with 3G connectivity and Google Maps.
"This is just the first of many mainstream cars we're developing," Musk said in a statement at the time, before going on to compare the ownership cost of the Model S to that of "a gasoline car with a sticker price of $35,000" once the lower cost of electricity versus the likely future cost of gasoline was taken into account.