Tesla Motors is a car company that designs, manufactures and sells electric vehicles. This public company was founded in 2003 by Ian Wright, JB Straubel, Marc Tarpenning, Martin Eberhard and most notably Elon Musk. Its headquarters is located in Palo Alto, California, with its main production plant in Fremont, California. The company was named after Nikola Tesla, a renowned electrical engineer and physicist. Its goal is to increase the number of EV’s (Electric Vehicles) available to the market to help make it more mainstream.
Currently, Tesla motors have produced two models, the Tesla Roadster and the Model S, and has unveiled a third, the Model X. In the Future, the company plans to produce family-sized minivans, electric SUV crossovers, and electric fleet vans for municipal governments. Other business includes collaborations with other companies such as Toyota, Mercedes, Daimler, Freightliner Trucks and Panasonic. Although the company has earned much success, it has hit its share of bumps along the way such as lawsuits, recalls and founder disputes.
The company began when two teams wanted to start an electric car company and since their goals were similar, they joined forces to better their chances of success. The most famous of these entrepreneurs, and one of the most important and iconic figures to the company, is Elon Musk. His success began with his first company Zip2, which was bought out by Compaq for $304 million.
Then he co-founded what eventually became PayPal, which was bought out for $1.5 billion by Ebay. Elon co-founded a third company named SpaceX in 2002 where he is currently the CEO and CTO. SpaceX is a shipping company, in that it ships cargo with huge Falcon 9 rockets into space, supplying NASA’s cargo to the International Space Station. This leads us to his co-founding of Tesla Motors, where he oversaw the company’s first car, the Tesla Roadster and eventually took the position of CEO.
Tesla Motors is not the first car company to produce pure EVs. In fact, EVs have been around since the 1800’s and outnumbered combustion engine vehicles. Since then, combustion cars held the market and EVs were for the most part out of the automobile scene until the 1900s. GM and several other car companies produced experimental EV’s in limited numbers but their motives were self serving, including fulfilling government emission mandates. GM’s EV1 was leased only and were crushed after the lease was up 3 years later. EV’s first found a foothold in the auto market with the introduction of the hybrids.
Toyota’s Prius was the first mass-produced hybrid gasoline electric car, which was introduced to the global market in 2001. To date, the Prius has sold over 2.5 million cars worldwide and is the world’s best selling hybrid. Since then, many other companies have produced their own versions of hybrids such as the Chevy Volt, and the Nissan Leaf, the world’s top selling EV.
From the start, the Tesla Motor company has had a strategy for entering the market as an EV auto maker. It is difficult enough to start a new car company without a long built reputation, but to enter a new and uncharted market is bold and very risky. To do this, Tesla first would build a sports car with low production numbers in order to prove their technology. Next, they would shift do to luxury models that are more affordable and their last step is to build affordable EVs to compete with economy cars already on the market.
In 2008, Tesla Motors started selling its first EV, the Tesla Roadster, which was just a Lotus Elise with a Tesla electric drive system. It was designed to compete with other sports cars in its price range. Not only was it Tesla Motors first production vehicle, it was the first highway-capable all-electric vehicle in serial production for sale in the US, and the first production car to use lithium-ion batteries, allowing it also to be the first all-electric car to have a range greater than 200 miles per charge. Its 288HP electric engine allows it to accelerate 0-60 in just 3.7 seconds.
This power has allowed it to win the Monet Carlo Alternative Energy Rally and the Federation Inernationale di I’Automobile. The EPA rates the Roadsters range at 244 miles but at 25mph, it can accomplish 300 miles, the current distance record for a production EV. Production ceased in 2012 and over 2,250 Roadsters have been sold worldwide.
Tesla’s next move was to build a more practical 4 door sedan for a broader market. These would be built at the Tesla Factory in Fremont, California. Unlike the Tesla Roadster, the entire car would be built at the factory rather than just putting a motor in an existing car. The Model S is the first production car to come out of the newly purchased factory and deliveries began in June of 2012.
Three packages are available, with the Performance package boasting 420 hp and an EPA range of 265 miles. Although the car weighs over 2 tons, its low center of gravity allows for excellent handling and because it’s driven by an electric motor with no gear box, it can still accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. Another difference of the Model S over the Roadster is its charging ability. An optional supercharger can add 150 miles of range in just 30 minutes and can fully charge the cars battery in just one hour.
Tesla is adding Supercharging stations across the country and is free to use for Tesla owners. These Supercharging stations are solar powered and any extra power is fed back into the grid. From a normal 110V/12A outlet, one our adds 5 miles of range and from a 220V/40A oulet, one our adds 31 miles of range. The Model S has received much appraise and has one several rewards including 6 Car of the Year Awards. The Model S starts at just $62,000 for the basic model and its top model costs $87,400 USD.
In 2014, the Tesla Factor will start full production of its second EV, the Model X. This model is an SUV with several innovations and some impressive performance. First, it doesn’t have side mirrors but instead uses cameras to reduce its coefficient of drag, making it more aerodynamic. Next, it has uses hinged falcon-wing doors, allowing easier access for rear passengers.
The performance model has two motors, allowing for four-wheel drive and accelerates from 0 to 60 in just 4.4 seconds. Its range is similar to the Models S and is said to be 270 miles. Although it weighs 10% more, it shares 60% of the Model S components including its 17” touchscreen control panel, but unlike the Model S, it has two touchscreens on the steering wheel for multi-function control.
In order to build its EVs, Tesla Motors first needed to find a place to build its line of cars. It first planned to build a factory in Albuquerque, New Mexico but was canceled and a factory in San Jose, California was also canceled due to cost. Fortunately, the economy went south in 2008 and the NUMMI plant occupied by both GM and Toyota was abandoned. In 2010, Tesla Motors purchased the factory building for $42 million.
Most of the 370-acre facility is unused and the only activity seen is the Tesla Factory’s production of the Model S. Not only did Tesla acquire the 5,500,000-square-foot main building, but they also acquired over $17 million in manufacturing equipment and parts, making the start-up cost of Tesla Motors less. Currently, around 1,000 workers are employed at the factory, producing 20,000 vehicles a year.
Along with its own line of vehicles, Tesla Motors also has several collaborations with some well known company’s. Daimler’s Mercedes line had Tesla build electric powertrain components for its A-Aclass E-Cell, which has a 124 mile range. Only 500 of these cars were built in Europe to test the market.
Another project Tesla is currently working on for Daimler is the power train for the Smart Fortwo vehicle. In July of 2010, Toyota announced that it would be working with Tesla Motors to produce an electric version of the RAV4. Toyota converted 35 RAV4s for evaluation, using the power pack from Tesla’s Model S and powertrain components. Freightliner Trucks are also working with Tesla, using their battery packs for their Custom Chassis Electric Van.
At Tesla, workers have passion for doing the right thing for the world. People are overworked and underpaid, but are endlessly fueled by a desire to tackle one of the most important challenges society has ever faced, protecting the planet. Giving future generations a good place to live is important to everyone at Tesla, unlike some other companies. One example was GM’s EV-1 electric car, which was built in the late 1990s.
GM didn’t build an EV-1 to help the planet, but rather to fulfill a California mandate for a zero-emission vehicle. After fulfilling this mandate, all EV-1s were repossessed from lease and most were crushed. Unlike GMs self sabotaged EV-1, Tesla’s Model S and other models are out to create a paradigm shift and it all starts with the corporate culture.
Tesla’s internal communication mediums include phones, pagers, video networking, email and everything a normal office would expect to have. A less obvious, but perhaps the most important type of internal communication is person to person. Tesla’s offices allow for this by leaving the office open. Different teams are all in the same room, so that communication is done on a personal level from one department to another. This open environment office space approach helps the synergy of the entire Tesla team.
Being a high tech auto company, Tesla also communicates externally by all the ways a tech company should. Their website includes a forums section that allows owners and non owners to make posts and comments on a number of Tesla topics. This is a way for customers and enthusiast to communicate with the company directly on the site. Tesla also keeps a blog on their site to keep the community up to date with the company. Along with their website, Tesla also has a Twitter, Google+, Facebook and Vimeo pages.
Tesla also has the ability to directly communicate with their cars aswell. When a new firmware version comes out for the car, it can automatically download and update the new firmware. In one case, a Telsa customer was trying to charge his car at one of Tesla’s super chargers but the car would not charge. The owner called Tesla and they were able to send a firmware update within an hour, which fixed the problem. Another public relation strategy is to off the superchargers free to Tesla costumers for life.
Some of the communication challenges for Tesla have been the negative media about the company. One incident included a lawsuit with the BBCs popular auto show called “Top Gear.” Tesla’s Roadster was featured in an episode and it was written in the script for the car to rail. Overall, the episode put down the car in a negative way. Tesla Motors took them to court but the case was not successful for Tesla. Another incident was a NYT reporter giving the car a negative review. In defense, Tesla released data to compare what the journalist said and how the car was actually driven. In the end, the journalist was discredited.
In general, Tesla Motors and its vehicles have a very positive public relationship. Before the Model S was released to customers with reservations, Tesla held events that would allow customers to test drive the car in order to ease the tension of eager clients. These events were also good opportunities for reporters to get a look at the new EV. Since then, there have also been many other events, showcasing the car.
Elon Musk and other important head figures of the company often speak at these events. Other positive publicity and exposure has been done though the media. The National Geographics Channel had an episode of “Megafactories Supercars” covering the Tesla Factory as it produces the Model S. Another popular outlet for Tesla media are videos available on sites such as Vimeo and Youtube and the Tesla website.