Tesla has been reaching new heights in 2020 — in some regards, even Elon Musk has been surprised by the milestones Tesla [NASDAQ: TSLA] has hit this year. Reflecting on the roller coaster ride of public opinion, media coverage, and Wall Street’s response to Tesla over the past 8 years or so, I thought to publish a short, fun story on Tesla’s growth and development over the years. However, after spending a couple of hours on 2012 and 2013, I decided I’d split this up into a series. Below is a summary of notable Tesla highlights from our first two years of serious Tesla coverage.
In 2012, Tesla started delivering the Model S, which many — particularly industry insiders and analysts — thought was impossible, would never get to market, would fall apart in customer hands, and would certainly never be mass produced. (Elon Musk actually won a $1 million bet as a result.) The response from nearly everyone who drove a Model S, though, was thrill, excitement, butterflies, and desire for this new, unprecedented smart EV. Critics were as critical as ever, though. “Fine, you’ve created a cool car, but you’re bleeding money and, really, cannot mass produce this thing at a profit.” (Oh, ye of little faith.)
— evobsession (@evobsession) November 29, 2020
At the end of 2012, the Model S also won the 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year award. Furthermore, Musk noted that Obama’s re-election likely meant good things for growing EV production. And Tesla announced that it would set up an assembly facility in Holland for European sales. Lastly, on the Model S front, Tesla starting wowing with its over-the-air firmware updates by giving Model S owners more range.
Tesla also started taking reservations for the Model X at the end of 2012, with a whopping 500 reservations placed in the first 4 days!
Regarding charging, Tesla announced that it opened up two (count them — 2!) Supercharger stations on the US East Coast. That meant there were 8 Superchargers across the country! (Well, 6 in California and 2 on the East Coast.)
All of this is wild to think about, some of it a vague memory, some almost fresh. It feels like it was 8 years ago or something.
In 2013, Tesla really jazzed things up, by launching its mobile app!
On the heels of a surprise 2nd quarter profit (though, one that was not that surprising to those following the company’s plans), Tesla stock soared to $53/share, and then to $153/share later in the year (which would be $30.6/share today). Actually, it rose close to $200 before a “steep drop” to $144.70 in mid November. I find it funny now that I happened to write this piece in May 2013, long before I set up an investment account of any sort: “Tesla Now Worth 25% Of GM, But Just Wait a Few Hours….”
On the more negative side of things, an odd Tesla Model S road trip by an unlikely New York Times reviewer led to a ton of criticism by Tesla, Elon Musk, and Tesla fans (including yours truly). The story may have cost Tesla a precious $100 million, nonetheless. Though, I’d also argue that it helped raise awareness of Tesla and set up quite a lucrative narrative for Tesla over the following years.
One of my favorite Tesla commercials ever was also published in 2013 (by a fan of course): Gallons of Light.
Fights with auto dealers in various states got rolling as well. In fact, it’s hard to believe, but Tesla still can’t sell or service vehicles in several states! Indeed, Texans expressed support for Tesla’s ability to sell cars on the free market in 2013, but Tesla still can’t sell cars to people there! Tesla did get permission to sell vehicles in New York, Virginia, and in North Carolina in 2013, though.
Tesla also launched that Holland factory noted above.
The Tesla Model X faced its first of several major delays, a pattern that would lead to skepticism about Tesla timelines and ability to execute for years to follow.
But perhaps the story of the year was that Elon Musk announced the company’s aim to produce a $40,000 car with 200 miles of range by 2017. Crazy? Out of his mind? Or knew what was up?
Tesla also demonstrated an exciting 90-second battery swap. Well … that went nowhere. (There was some murmur that Tesla did this just for some California incentives. Perhaps we’ll never know. But it was fun and exciting at the time.)
Another dud (so far): Tesla pushed to eliminate regulatory requirements for side mirrors. Someday. …
Hertz added the Model S to its Dream Cars lineup. Who would have guess that a mere 7 years later, Hertz would have gone bankrupt and Tesla would be on top of the world?
The Tesla Model S was also determined to be the safest car ever tested by the NHTSA — that is, its precise score across the various tests indicated passengers had the lowest probability of injury in an accident.
In September 2013, Elon Musk announced that Tesla was getting to work on an autonomous driving system called “Autopilot,” and put an appeal out for engineers in that space to apply. I wonder what ever happened with that effort. 😉
Right before Christmas 7 years ago, Tesla also opened its first Superchargers in Germany and Switzerland, following the initial rollout of Superchargers elsewhere in Europe earlier in the year — the Netherland and Norway. Look at the amazing network Tesla had developed by Christmas 2013:
Perhaps ahead of its time, GM studied the potential for Tesla to be a “disrupter” to GM’s business.
To be fair, Musk also said that Tesla had been “extremely dumb at making cars” before then. I’m sure 2020 Elon Musk would make the same comment about 2013 Tesla. He has actually said some similar things this year about Tesla’s manufacturing efficiency in even much more recent years.
Wall Street analysts like Robert Weinstein of TheStreet and MSN Money, meanwhile, were warning people that, although Tesla cars were cool, the stock might not be a smart buy. See: “Buy a Tesla, steer clear of the stock.” I mused that such a take may have been short sighted. (Judge for yourself how things turned out.) To be fair, though, even Elon Musk said the stock price seemed a bit ambitious back in August of 2013. “I actually think that the value of Tesla right now is … I mean the market’s being very generous, and they’re obviously giving us a lot of credit for future execution, so we’ll do our best to honor the faith the market has placed in us,” he said. “But I really feel like the valuation we’ve gotten, that we have right now, is more than, is more than we have any right to deserve, honestly.”
At the time, a survey found that only about 22% of Americans had heard of the Tesla Model S. I wonder what the percentage would be today. Meanwhile, the UK’s AskMen named Elon Musk the #1 most influential man on the planet.
In November 2013, Elon Musk discussed the possibility that Tesla might build a “battery gigfactory.” Hmmm.
At the end of 2013, I found out that Tesla had trademarked “Model Y,” and the question arose about whether Tesla intended to create a — gasp — S-E-X-Y vehicle brand. Indeed, Tesla had also requested a trademark for “Model E” (but Ford later blocked it).
Additionally, it was reported that Tesla might reveal an electric pickup truck 5 years down the road (in 2018). As I wrote at the time, “In five years, if Tesla launches an electric truck, it is likely it will have new features that would make it far superior to the electric Ford Ranger. A much greater driving range, shorter charging times and a much more powerful engine all appear to be very feasible.”
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