8 Behind-the-Scenes Facts About Tesla Motors

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Tesla and its golden boy CEO have had their share of potholes and intrigue getting the battery-powered cars to market.

There’s plenty of buzz about Tesla Motors, its high-end electric vehicles and its dynamic CEO Elon Musk, but only uber fans know some of the more interesting facts about the car company, named after the brilliant Serbian-American physicist and inventor Nikola Tesla. Here are 10 of the most interesting — and fun — facts about the company:

1. Silicon Valley engineers founded Tesla

If you thought Tesla CEO Elon Musk was the mastermind, don’t feel bad. It’s a common myth. In fact, as told in this Business Insider article, the company, incorporated in July 2003, was the brainchild of “a tiny band of obsessive Silicon Valley engineers.” Of those engineers, Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning are perhaps the best known of the company’s founders. The billionaire Musk — a PayPal cofounder — led the Series A round of investment in February 2004.

2. The founders were ousted

Tesla founders had no automotive experience, and the process of creating Tesla’s first car, the Roadster, was rocky, according to this account in Forbes. Eberhard planned the budget for the Roadster, which was introduced in 2008, much later than anticipated and significantly over budget. Musk believed the company could not survive with this leadership, so he put all of his liquid fortune into the company and ultimately took over as CEO. Legal battles ensued and were settled out of court.

3. Wall Street optimistic even after Tesla’s engines sputter

Tesla’s net losses more than tripled in the third quarter of 2015 due to increased expenses and research costs, the Associated Press reported.  That worried investors and Wall Street analysts. But the gloom and doom quickly lifted — and shares rose more than 11 percent — after third-quarter reports showed Tesla beating revenue estimates although it posted greater-than-anticipated losses, according to Business Finance News. Share prices seemingly were also buoyed by Tesla’s assurances that barriers to higher production would soon be eliminated and when, after months of searching, the company had hired Jason Wheeler, Google’s former vice president for finance as its new CFO.

4. Tesla leadership has a brain drain problem

Tesla’s head of operations is among at least a half-dozen key employees who have left Tesla for Sonnenbatterie, a German solar storage system, to help lead that company’s global expansion, according to GreenTechMedia. Several of the defectors, including Tesla’s former country director for Germany and Austria, Philipp Schroder, had previously worked at Sonnenbatterie. Schroder is cited as a crucial member of Sonnenbatterie’s leadership between 2012-2014.

5. Tesla’s ‘mass-market’ electric car might be a stretch for many of the masses

Musk Tweeted that the company’s first-ever, mass-market electric vehicle will be introduced in about two years, but you can get a look at it this March, according to Popular Mechanics. Start saving now if you want one in your driveway. Elon Musk has said the Model 3 will cost about $35,000 — but a recent report by Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas predicted the price tag will be closer to $60,000, reported Business Insider. Musk did not respond to the report.

6. Tesla’s planned key fob has generated a buzz of its own

Geek alert! The current fob, shaped like a Tesla vehicle, already goes beyond the usual fob functions by opening and closing the actual trunk and port hatch. A new key fob is expected to allow drivers to communicate with their Teslas via a smartphone app or screen, according to Tech Times.

7. ‘Growing pains’ on the reliability front

Consumer Reports stopped recommending the Model S after more than 1,400 owners complained about everything from squeaking noises to faulty motors to problematic door handles, the New York Times reported in October. Does this mean the Tesla — which just a few months earlier received the highest CR score for its Model S P85D — is a nonstarter? “On our test track, the car is second to none,” Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports’ director of automotive testing told the NYT. (The car accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds.) “But when we talk about reliability, we are talking about things that break. This is a new vehicle, with a new platform, and they are experiencing growing pains. Hopefully, they will learn from them.”

8. Tesla may move to protect people from themselves

The great excitement about the cars’ new auto pilot feature — the feature is now in 40,000 cars — has given way to safety concerns. Drivers ignoring Tesla’s recommendation to keep their hands on the steering wheels had near misses with other cars and curbs. Musk was disturbed when he saw “some fairly crazy videos on YouTube,” reported the Washington Post. Expect a software update to keep people from running such obvious risks, said the Post.

What’s your impression of Tesla’s emergence in the U.S. auto scene? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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