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Tesla to Build the "Model S" Electric Sedan Back in California

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It’s official: Tesla Motors has named its electric sedan (codename WhiteStar) the “Model S” and the company says it has decided to bring the manufacturing of its vehicle back to California. We just got out of a press conference at Tesla Motors headquarters in San Carlos, Calif, where California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, California Treasurer Bill Lockyer, Tesla Chairman Elon Musk and Tesla CEO Ze’ev Drori made the announcement and did a photo opp tour of the Tesla factory for a room full of media. (See our photos below).

So that nixes Tesla’s former plans to build its sedan in a factory in New Mexico — New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson must be having a bad day. Gov. Schwarzenegger, on the other hand, was straight-up gleeful over the steal, and said that when Tesla had previously decided to manufacture in New Mexico it “drove me absolutely insane. My administration does not like to lose.” And of course he had to slip those Schwarzenegger lines in there, saying he’s happy that Tesla “will be back to California.”

Tesla CEO Drori (pictured on the right, next to the Governor) said in blog post, which the company just put up, that Tesla wanted to manufacture its sedan “as close to our headquarters as possible.” Drori writes that having the manufacturing facility and HQ close by, gives the company “operational advantages.” California is also Tesla’s most important market to sell into in the U.S., so proximity to Cali is important on that front, too.

But perhaps the biggest issue is that California decided to offer Tesla some key incentives that are more competitive than the ones New Mexico was offering. These include: a newly approved program that exempts green car builders from paying sales tax and use tax on the purchase of manufacturing equipment, and a grant program for training employees. Tom Dresslar, a spokesman for the state treasurer told the San Francisco Chronicle that the equipment incentives could save Tesla as much as $9 million.


At the press conference Musk and Drori emphasized that Tesla is a company that always intended to make electric vehicles low-cost and mainstream. Unlike its first vehicle, the luxury $100,000 Roadster, the Model S sedan is projected to cost $60,000. Musk said if the company could have produced a low-cost car first, they would have done that.

Musk also said Tesla has a project in the works to to deliver an electric vehicle for under $30,000 “a lot sooner than everyone thinks.” When pressed for how long that would take, he said: “4 years at the most.”

So why make the official name for the codenamed WhiteStar so incredibly dull? — WhiteStar was actually pretty fun. They chose a modest name on purpose. Tesla’s VP marketing and business development Darryl Siry told us that the point is to make Tesla the main brand, and not to dilute the brand with additional marketing terms. Guess they didn’t like our naming attempts. (From left to right: Schwarzenegger, unknown, Lockyer, Drori, Steve Westly, and Musk)

28 Responses to “Tesla to Build the "Model S" Electric Sedan Back in California”

  1. Anonymous

    I’m gonna guess they are Babylon 5 fans. The White Star had a smaller cousin in the finale called the Blue Star, so it’s very possible the White Star/Blue Star names come from that.

  2. how can we make this car even greener? get them to use waste CO2 (R744) to power their MAC (Mobile Air Conditioning).

    That way they reduce their ‘real emissions’ even further with this eco-friendly alternative.

    Check out for more info about companies working with this technology around the world.

  3. Jeffrey

    Tesla made a smart move to produce non-petroleum running vehicles to kill greedy oil companies by eliminating the dependence of gas stations! Petroleum creates enormous problem for this world such as wars, pollutions, greed, and corruptions. Three American major automakers (GM, Ford and Chrysler) only care about their fat profits by producing big fat gas-guzzlers vehicles and eventually, they will die from being too much greedy for themselves! American automakers are definitely stupid enough to realize for our future economical survival and our dwindling non-renewable resources with overtime of petroleum-dependent technologies and infrastructures in the near future. These will crumble as the energy requirements outstrip available resources. The collapse of industrial society will be results of high population demands from increasing scarcity of petroleum and all its products and byproducts. Powerful oil lobby-influenced politicians prevent new innovative opportunity for the development of alternative energy innovations without petroleum dependences and monopoly. Bush and the Congress never want to abandon our consumers’ dependence of gas stations and utilities because we paid them from gas pumps and electric lines in order to keep flowing of profit revenues to support oil and utilities companies and government needs. Oil, automakers and utilities companies often bought out of various energy alternative innovators with their patents rights in order to mainstay on profits and prolong companies’ survivals to preserve the monopoly. As you know that President Bush and his cabinet members are oil people and of course, they secretly care about oil prices going up! Their main motive is greed. Tesla could save us to prolong our economical survival for our American civilization. Go Tesla!

  4. O'Malley

    Finally…Some great leadership! Way to go CA! Tesla is re-defining the type of vehicle we will drive. The Roadster is the most eco-friendly car on the market and I am thrilled to see Silicon Valley controlling it’s emergence. Battery powered vehicles will continue to get more and more miles per charge while costs drop. I will be a Tesla customer by 2011…swear!

  5. I think it’s great the the Tesla “will be back” to California, and of course it’s important to have the governor behind it. My question is this: why put all of our efforts behind the Tesla? There are so many start-ups out there leading green-car innovation, and I think it’s important for multiple different types of technologies to take hold if we want to see real traction in terms of migrating away from fuel-based cars. Do we think Schwarzenegger will continue this green-car push by extending his support to different options? Start-ups are the ones introducing the technologies that will really make a change.

  6. right on! another score for California giving the better deal to Elon Musk and Co. to stay here in California. Although I got to agree that “WhiteStar” is a pretty dull name and the VP of Marketings reason behind a dull name was pretty lame.