It has been more than 5 years since we have been hearing about Tesla coming to India. Yes, the legend of Elon has taken us all over for almost half a decade, but what till recently was a scruffy automotive start-up, is now a 17-year-old company and will enter its 18th year in July 2021. What’s more fascinating is that even though Elon Musk is often credited as the founder and CEO of Tesla, he theoretically is not the founder of the company and became only the CEO in 2008, 5 years after the company was formed.
The idea for Tesla came literally like a lightbulb moment. Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning were inspired when GM recalled its EV1 electric car in 2003 and that destroyed them. The two men, who co-founded Tesla, but are not spoken of were the ones who had the genesis moment where they saw an opportunity to break the correlation between high performance and low mileage.
Soon after, this audacious vision caught the eye of maverick investor and millionaire (at the time) Elon Musk. Musk was fresh out of selling PayPal to eBay and he was already fully focussed on SpaceX with a mission of putting a man on Mars. Musk invested $6.5 million dollars which were a major part of their series A of $7.5 million.
This is when the team started work on Tesla’s groundbreaking first vehicle – the Roadster. Musk was a car nut. With the millions he had made from the sale of PayPal, one of the first things he had done was buy the McLaren F1. The allure of the Roadster was real. Its development led him to take a more active role within the company where he oversaw the development of the Roadster starting in 2005.
At the outset, Musk had become the chief cheerleader of the company. He always maintained that the goal was to make mass-market electric vehicles. By February 2006, Musk led Tesla’s Series B of $13 million which also added Valor equity partners to the team. Later that year, Musk co-led a $40 million round of investment for the company with technology partners. This round even featured the Google founders – Larry Page and Sergey Brin as investors amongst others.
Two years later, while the Roadster was in the final legs of its development, in 2008, Musk led another investment round which totalled Tesla’s overall fundraise to upwards of $100 million. By this time, Tesla had begun production of the Roadster which was a niche sports car that was attracting many folks in Silicon Valley.
With the Roadster, they had debunked the theory of an electric car not being big on performance. This car also had a usable range. This is what enabled Tesla to raise a loan of almost half a billion from the US Department of Energy which it paid back in 2013. On June 29, 2010, Tesla became the first American automotive company since Ford to offer an IPO.
The IPO led Tesla down the path of arguably its most important vehicle the Model S which was premium luxury sedan which promised incredible range and performance. To date, with various iterations, the Model S remains the most efficient EV in the world.
The Model S however still was an expensive vehicle. It wasn’t as expensive or niche as the Roadster but still beyond the reach of most. Instead of making a smaller vehicle, by 2015, Tesla was making an SUV based on the Model S, dubbed the Model X.
Elon was also changing Tesla’s playbook. In 2015, he unveiled the powerwall which a battery pack for the home. He was now enabling people to go off the grid – within a week of the unveiling of the powerwall, Tesla had orders worth $800 million.
The success of the powerwall enabled Musk to merge another company he had founded called SolarCity with Tesla in 2016. This was also around the time when the company showed off its audacious vision for what a more affordable electric car should be. This was the Model 3 which at the time Musk promised to get to India within a year. That never happened.
By 2017 Tesla had rebranded from Tesla Motors to Tesla Inc, to better communicate the broader scope of the company. By 2017, Tesla showed off the Model 3 and a new edition of the Roadster which has been claimed to be the fastest electric car in the world. The new Roadster is expected to be launched in 2022.
In 2019, Musk was at it again when the showed off the CyberTruck which is expected to hit the roads later this year. 2020 started brilliantly as the company became to the most highly capitalised automaker in the world. By June, Tesla’s value for more than Daimler, BMW and Volkswagen combined – the big 3 German brands. Today, its value scales upwards of $700 million with it neck and neck with Facebook in value and Musk as become the second richest person in the world overtaking Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates who for the better part of the last three decades was the richest man in the world.
Tesla launched an SUV called the Model Y based on Model 3. Model 3’s success had fuelled this vehicle as it had become the best selling EV in 2018 and 2019. Musk even defied lockdown orders and reopened the factory in Fremont to get Tesla production on track which culminated in a record-breaking 2020 despite the pandemic which has ravaged the auto industry.
Along the way, Tesla has built three Gigafactories in three continents. It has unveiled new tab-less battery technology and also built a robust self-driving technology which many claim could be better than Google’s tech dubbed auto-pilot and attracted some of the best engineers from the world who have developed proprietary semiconductors for on-device computing.
Recently, it has also announced an ambition to make $25,000 hatchback which will probably be tailored for markets like India. Tesla’s scope is massive and audacious. Now that Tesla has incorporated its company in India, finally in 2021, it is very likely we will see, the Model 3 land in the country very soon.