Tesla Motors had a tough call to make this week: Anger customers with a price hike on pre-ordered Roadsters that were supposed to be “locked in,” or risk lower profit margins that might scare off future investors. The Silicon Valley luxury electric automaker opted for the former, notifying the 400 people who have deposited $50,000 apiece for undelivered 2008 Roadsters that they will have to pay extra for previously standard options — things like a metallic paint job or a navigation system.
Tesla spokesperson Rachel Konrad explained that the company faces increasing pressure to beef up its profit margins. “The margins are really important on this car for the next group of investors,” she told Wired, “whether it’s public shareholders in an IPO, the federal government looking at federal loan candidates or the next group of venture capitalists.”
Really important. Absolutely. So, will this big bold move give Tesla the boost it needs to get through the credit crunch and on with mass-market production? Probably not. From the numbers posted by Roadster owners (and would-be owners), it looks like the price hikes will bring in only a few million dollars for a company that claims to need $200 million in loans to produce a long-promised sedan priced for the mass market — the supposed key to Tesla’s profitability. If the 400 affected customers fork over at least $6,700 to get all of the previously standard options (not at all guaranteed, since they can skip the special features), it will bring in only about $2.7 million in additional revenue. Not exactly a needle-mover. Would that give you the confidence to invest?