has raised the price of some of the options on its near-$100,000 electric-powered Roadster — and about 400 people who've put down $50,000 deposits on the cars can take it or leave it.
That's the gist of letters and phone calls customers of the San Carlos, Calif.-based electric car startup got last week. Facing some financial troubles and seeking federal loans, Tesla has given those customers of its 2008 model year Roaster a choice — pay extra for options, or receive a full refund.
"We need to improve the margins on the car for the next round of investors," Tesla spokeswoman Rachel Konrad said Tuesday. "They could be venture capitalists, they could be public shareholders after an IPO, or it could be the federal government."
That's because Tesla is seeking a $200 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy to help it restart its expansion plans, including a now-stalled $250 million factory for its less-expensive second model, the Model S. Beyond laying off staff and closing a Detroit office, Tesla has now delayed the $50,000 sedan to mid-2011 (see Tesla Hit by Market Freefall
, Tesla Coughs up Sedan Price, Details on Economy Car
and Funding Roundup: How Poor do Investors Feel
Telsa is also seeking up to $400 million
of a $25 billion federal bailout loan package aimed at keeping car companies afloat through the economic downturn.
As for the new charges on 2008 model Roadsters, chief among them is the high performance charger that allows them to charge up in about three and a half hours, rather than overnight. That's going to cost $3,000 now.
Forged alloy wheels will now cost $2,300 extra, and the "SolarPlus" windshield will now cost $400. Other options that formerly cost extra have risen in price, while others aren't facing price hikes. (For a more complete list, go to this Tesla owner's blog
The 2008 Roadsters are selling for between $92,000 and $98,000, Konrad said. The newer 2009 models are selling for $109,000, and Tesla introduced a juiced-up, $128,000 Roadster Sport
model at the North American International Car Show in Detroit earlier this month.
Because all the 2008 Roadsters to be produced from now until October are sold already, adding charges for newer customers only wasn't an option for immediately improving the company's margins, Konrad said. About 150 Roasters have been delivered so far, she said.
"We did not do this lightly," Konrad said. "But it's a decision we think helps ensure the viability of the company going forward." Tesla raised $40 million in November
, soon after CEO and Chairman Elon Musk denied rumors
that the company was facing bankruptcy.
Tesla did get a boost from news last week that it had a deal to supply its lithium-ion battery packs for Daimler's Smart cars