Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk wants his customers to know the electric car startup is pressing on despite hard economic times, with promises of profitability by midyear and the hopes of receiving $350 million in federal loan in the next four to five months.
Telsa also plans to open its stores for its $109,000 Roadster in six cities this year and show off a prototype of its under-$50,000 Model S sedan next month, Musk wrote in a Wednesday newsletter to customers.
Of course, Tesla doesn't plan to start producing the Model S until 2011, since it's had to delay its $250 million factory, originally meant to start producing the sedan by early 2010, and its had to lay off employees in the midst of the worst market downturn for automakers in decades (see Musk: Tesla Hit by Market 'Freefall').
But Musk wrote Wednesday that the San Carlos, Calif.-based startup expects sales of its Roadster electric sports car – now sold out through November, and soon to be sold out through 2009 – to put the company in the black by mid-2009.
As for hitting lower price points, Tesla will unveil a Model S prototype at an invitation-only event on March 26 at the factory of Musk's space rocket startup SpaceX, he wrote. Tesla is aiming to sell the sedan for $57,499. Government tax credits of $7,500 should drop the price below $50,000 for customers, Musk told Greentech Media in December (see Tesla Coughs Up Sedan Price, Details on Economy Car).
Tesla had been looking to raise $100 million to build the factory when the emerging economic crisis put that out of reach. The company did raise $40 million in loans in November.
Now Tesla is seeking a $350 million loan from the Department of Energy to build the Model S factory. It's one of many automakers seeking a piece of the government's $25 billion loan program to encourage building more fuel-efficient cars.
Musk wrote Wednesday that the DOE told Tesla last week that it could start giving out those loan "within four or five months," which would be faster than most observers have previously predicted. But it does fit in with new Energy Secretary Steven Chu's promise to speed spending from the department to jumpstart the economy.
Getting its loan by midyear "will keep us on track for production (of the Model S) to start in 2011," Musk wrote.
And to boost sales of its Roadster, Tesla also has lease agreements for stores in Chicago and London, and hopes to cement leases for stores in Manhattan, Miami, Seattle and Munich to open in all six cities by year's end, Musk said.
Tesla is also building battery packs and chargers for Daimler's electric Smart cars – another boost in hard times.