Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk begins his email to would-be Roadster owners — those who have already plunked down $50,000 deposits for 2008 models of the sports car and will now have to pay extra for previously standard features — like so:
A much fuller account of the history of Tesla is worth telling at some point, but for now I will just talk about the essentials of why we needed to raise prices on options. Fundamentally, it boils down to taking the tough steps that are difficult but necessary for Tesla to be a healthy company and not fall prey to the recession.
When the initial base price, for cars after the Signature 100 series, of $92k was approved by the board a few years ago, it was based on an estimated vehicle cost of roughly $65k provided by management at the time. This turned out to be wrong by a very large margin.
He goes on to describe some of the company’s challenges: Its lack of auto industry experience (once billed as an advantage in the fight to topple Detroit’s high-and-mighty Big Three), a body supplier that charged “nutty money,” and an unreliable HVAC system.
From the opening line (a hint at dreams of optioning his story to Hollywood, perhaps for “The Eberhard Redemption,” or “Raiders of the Lost Roadster”?) to the final reminder that Tesla must prove viability in order to receive federal aid on its Model S sedan factory, we have to wonder if Musk truly thought this message would appease would-be buyers, or if it was simply an effort to put the company’s logic on the record. Because fact is, they’ve rooted for the startup through thick and thin — and at least 400 of them have little to show for it besides an invitation to yet another town hall meeting.