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Tesla Going for IPO in 2008

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Elon Musk, chairman of electric car startup Tesla Motors, plans to take the firm public by the end of the year, CNET reports. Musk, who estimated Tesla would raise some $100 million via the IPO, made the remarks on-stage at the TiECon conference in Santa Clara, Calif. Tesla reps had previously told us that an IPO this year was unlikely, so Musk appears to be speeding up the company’s time line.

But Musk said that first the company plans to raise a Series E round of financing. He added that he’s trying to figure out a way to open up the round to Tesla customers that have already put in orders for the $100,000 Roadster, a list whose names includes the likes of George Clooney, and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. Tesla’s VP sales, marketing & service, Darryl Siry tells us that the company is considering the unusual approach of making it possible for Tesla customers to invest “because it is a frequent request,” and because “many of them are very eager to invest in the company.”

Tesla is also getting anywhere from $100 million to $200 million in the form of a Department of Energy loan, Musk noted. Musk back in a February interview with the Financial Times said the startup was looking to raise $250 million via a debt financing and IPO over the next two years.

This big push to raise funds and move the company into profitability is also an effort to keep Tesla’s next car, the electric sedan codenamed White Star, on schedule. The Roadster went through some serious production delays, so making sure the White Star meets its 2010 production date will be key to the company grabbing an early slice of the all-electric market.

Some of the auto giants are hot on the startup’s heels. Chevy is working to get its much-ballyhooed extended-range electric Volt out the door by 2010. And just last week, Nissan confirmed plans to bring an ell-electric car to the U.S. market by 2010 in what it calls a “first by a major automaker to bring a zero-emission vehicle to the American market.”

Meanwhile, Tesla is still wrestling with the engineering of its flagship, the Roadster. In a letter sent out last week, the startup said it won’t be producing Roadsters with the permanent transmission until September.

Hopefully the litigious learning experience of making the Roadster will help Tesla steer clear of the same hurdles with its White Star.