Tesla to Drop Roadster, Places All Chips on Sedans

Tesla Roadster: about to go extinct

Tesla Roadster: about to go extinct

If you’re a fan of the Tesla Roadster, the time to buy is now, because it’s about to become a collectible.

According to the folks at Wired’s Autopia, who dug through Tesla’s paperwork, the company filed for its IPO, production of the electric two-seater will stop next year, and a replacement won’t hit the road until 2013. At the earliest. The giveaway line from the paperwork said,

We do not plan to sell our current generation Tesla Roadster after 2011 due to planned tooling changes at a supplier for the Tesla Roadster.

Well, we all know what that means. The supplier in question is Lotus, maker of the Elise, with which the Roadster shares underpinnings. Presumably, that would mean Lotus plans a change to the Elise that won’t be compatible with the Roadster. Which leaves Tesla up a creek without a chassis. Right?

Tesla Model S

Model S: Tesla's savior?

Good thing Tesla already closed on its $465 million Department of Energy loan, huh? With that money, the company plans to focus on having the Model S sedan ready for production in 2012. Which leaves at least a year without anything to sell, and zero revenue coming in. Ouch.

That could be the reason for the IPO, which Tesla hopes will generate another $100 million. It’s a risky investment, though, because even a half-billion dollars doesn’t go very far when trying to produce an all-new mass-market vehicle in the United States, especially an electric one. (Just ask GM.)

Tesla’s placing its bet on sedans, though, giving up (at least temporarily) on the sports car that started the company. In fact, Tesla has even said it wants to produce a smaller, BMW 3 Series sedan competitor by 2015, with visions of selling 200,000 units per year.

There’s no question that Tesla can build a beautiful car, and by all first accounts the Model S, which was unveiled almost a year ago, is a winner. If the production version arrives on time and delivers on its sub-$50K promise while achieving up to 300 miles on a charge, Tesla’s bet will have paid off.

We also have to remember that Mercedes-Benz has a 10 percent stake in Tesla, and could, potentially, infuse some cash if needed.

But if there are any major hiccups or delays in getting the Model S to market, we might as well write Elon Musk and Tesla off as another Preston Tucker.

When I first heard the news that Tesla was dropping the Roadster and offering an IPO with no promise of a replacement, I was thinking this was the beginning of the end of Tesla. Now though, I think it may be part of a well-thought-out strategy that has a real chance of succeeding.

Do you think Tesla is doing the right thing, and will survive, by focusing on sedans?

-tgriffith

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1 Comment

  1. I’m not sure whether Tesla will survive long-term, but I think working on less-expensive, more-practical cars that should appeal to a much wider segment of the market makes sense. It will be interesting to see how their IPO goes and whether they can survive until 2013 with no new cars to sell. I think the Model S looks pretty good, but wonder if production models will live up to the hype.

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