Tesla CEO Elon Musk contended in a blog post Monday that Martin Eberhard exaggerated his accomplishments in commercializing Tesla's first electric car model.
Musk wrote the post in response to a lawsuit Eberhard filed at the San Mateo County Superior Court earlier this month accusing Musk of defaming him in publications and unfairly blaming him for Tesla's delays in launching its first car, the Roadster, and money troubles.
Tesla also breached a contract when it failed to deliver to him the second Roadster ever made, Eberhard said. When he did get his car, it was a lemon and he needed to replace 75 parts.
Eberhard said Musk also insinuated himself as a founder of Tesla when Musk was only an investor.
In his rebuttal, Musk said Eberhard mischaracterized what happened to his Roadster. Musk said Eberhard also grossly underestimated the costs of engineering and producing the Roadster. Musk said Eberhard had assured him early on that the cost of production would reach $65,000 after the first 100 units. Tesla later did a study to figure out the production cost and found that it would actually be $120,000 after the first units, Musk said.
Apparently even that $120,000 was too low. The materials alone ended up costing $140,000 per car, Musk wrote. Tesla initially set the base price for the Roadster at $92,000. For the 2009 model, it went up to about $109,000.
The cost of materials for the Roadster reached $80,000 per car this month, Musk wrote.
Musk also noted that Eberhard portrayed himself as an inventor of Tesla when "he had no technology of his own, he did not have a prototype and he owned no intellectual property relating to electric cars."
Eberhard did have a business plan to commercialize an electric car idea by AC Propulsion, but all of the work accomplished on it under Eberhard largely had to be redone three years later, when Eberhard was forced out, Musk wrote.
Musk then went on to list his interests and credentials for bringing electric cars to the market and why he is part of the founding team. He included emails as evidence.
San Carlos, Calif.-based Tesla was founded in 2003, and in its early press releases, it referred only to Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning as co-founders. Musk was the chairman and investor. The references to Eberhard and Tarpenning did gradually disappear.
Eberhard was ousted in the summer of 2007. He was succeeded by Ze'ev Drori. Musk became the CEO last fall, when the company faced funding shortages.
In his blog post, however, Musk said he belonged to the founding team that included JB Straubel, who joined Tesla after Musk started investing in the company, and led the powertrain development.
"JB was recognized as 2008 innovator of the year by MIT for his work on the Roadster and, by any reasonable definition of the word, should certainly be considered a member of the founding team of Tesla, along with Eberhard, Tarpenning, Wright and me."
Musk said he plans to file a formal response to Eberhard's lawsuit soon.