The Making of Tesla Motors

Here’s one more profile today (see: Nick Denton and Eminem): Elon Musk, founder of electric car company Tesla.

On his first visit to Nummi, Musk donned a hard hat, a blue jacket, and plastic safety goggles and acted as inconspicuous as possible in the hopes of not being recognized. As a Nummi plant manager led him discreetly through the factory, he gawked at the massive scale of the place and tried to suppress his excitement. Hundreds of Toyota Corollas and Tacoma trucks rolled down the assembly lines. Thousands of people buzzed about. It was everything he had dreamed of for Tesla. He offered what he had budgeted for a more modest factory: $42 million. A month later, to his astonishment, the offer was accepted.

Now, on his second visit to the plant—his first as its owner—Musk is trying to get his bearings. Just five weeks earlier, Tesla had gone public, netting $238 million and making it the first American car company to complete an initial public offering since Ford in 1956. As a result, the company has access to more than $700 million, a significant portion of which will go toward retrofitting the facility. It’s a daunting task. Musk walks past row after row of motionless robotic drills. A multiton crane stands idle beside a 60-foot-tall steel press. The ceiling soars high overhead, making even the press look somehow small. For a moment, Musk appears overwhelmed by what he’s gotten himself into.

“Holy crap, this place is big,” he says, but then he flashes a smile. “It’s perfect.”

As of right now, the company won’t matter until it can produce a $20,000 all-electric vehicle that can compete with the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and the like.

Comments on this entry are closed.