Elon Musk: Daimler, not the government, saved Tesla

Elon-Musk-Daimler,-not- the government,-saved-Tesla

Recently speaking at the Wall Street Journal’s ECO:nomics conference in Santa Barbara, Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, in his typically candid fashion, gave some interesting insight into his company’s Department of Energy Loans and how it was indeed Daimler that saved Tesla, not the government.

As a quick side note, if you haven’t seen Chris Paine’s excellent Who Killed the Electric Car?, or his follow up Revenge of the Electric Car, do so now. Both films are a great look into the modern history of the electric car and help give insight into the birth of the current generation of EVs on, or coming to, the market.

In Revenge of the Electric Car, a plucky Elon Musk is struggling to keep his company afloat. The young Tesla CEO reveals that in the startup’s early days, he had to wire $3 million of his personal fortune so that the company could pay its employees.

Now, in the wake of a $465 million DOE low-interest loan guarantees Tesla received under the government’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program, Musk believes it was Daimer, and not the DOE, that saved Tesla from bankruptcy.

“We were saved by Daimler,” Musk said, before adding that Daimler’s $50 million, 9 percent ownership of Tesla was more than enough for the company to launch a successful public offering without help from the DOE.

Some may see Musk’s statements as unappreciative – biting the hand that has fed, and is feeding, the company now. And while Musk could have easily been less cavalier about the loans from the DOE (he rarely is), he does have a point. Daimler’s investment was crucial to Tesla receiving the DOE loan guarantees in the first place – without them they probably wouldn’t have received the much-needed cash influx. But the loans handed out by the DOE are important to Tesla’s long-term success, and have allowed the California startup to do a lot more.

Of course, $465 million in tax-payer money isn’t something to just ignore. Musk seems to acknowledge this in his own way, adding, “The DOE was a helpful catalyst,” but that it wasn’t crucial to the company’s survival or success, he says.


Never one to pass up the chance to create some sort of buzz or controversy, the Wall Street Journal reports that the Tesla CEO went on to add that he “generally doesn’t believe government subsidies are good, but in some cases they do help.” Musk’s sentiment seems to stem from criticisms leveled at government subsidies, and believes these incentives artificially pick winners and losers – believing that the best company should win based on market performance.

According to Musk, the best way for society to help reduce problems concerning climate change is to impose a tax on carbon dioxide emissions rather than “indirect” government subsides, like those given for electric cars. Stating, “The ideal would be to tax C02.”

Of course, Musk’s statements, although generally provocative and overly boisterous, don’t generally cross into the realm of confusing. While the enigmatic CEO is certainly welcome to his convictions, the fact that Tesla is looking to be on the up and up has as much to do with those very loans he is opposed to, which by the way seem to operate more in theory than in principle.

Still, we can’t say for sure what Musk is thinking. Maybe he is distancing the company ahead of the 2012 Presidential campaign from the DOE, and all the political mudslinging surrounding the ATVM loan program. Or maybe he just enjoys causing a stir. Either way, Tesla is currently in a solid state, and Musk will no doubt be looking forward to continued success — and maybe another opportunity to fan the flames down the road. 


Tesla posts $702M Q1 loss as deliveries fall sharply; Musk promises turn-around

Tesla lost $702 million during the first quarter of 2019 as deliveries fell sharply, and demand for the Model X and the Model S flattened. The company predicts it will again lose money in the second quarter.

Nvidia agrees with Tesla’s take on self-driving cars, but corrects specifics

Nvidia vice president Rob Csongor agreed with broad statements by Elon Musk at Tesla's April 22 Autonomy Investor Day. Csongor then took exception to what he termed were inaccuracies about Nvidia's self-driving car chip.

Tesla Model S and Model X charge faster and go farther with the same battery

An all-new drivetrain for the Tesla Model S and X enables the EVs to travel farther per charge than the previous design. Tesla Model S Long Range sedans have a 370-mile range and Model X Long Range SUVs can travel 325 miles per EPA cycle.

Tesla will have ‘autonomous robotaxis’ in 2020, Elon Musk says

Tesla will deploy self-driving cars in a "robotaxi" service in 2020, CEO Elon Musk said at the automaker's Autonomy Investor Day. Musk has promised autonomous Tesla electric cars before, but will he finally deliver this time?
Buying Guides

The best hatchbacks for 2019 are small in size and big on tech

The hatchback segment isn't huge, but there are still plenty of good options to choose from. Here, we've rounded up the best hatchbacks available in America, whether you're a fan of efficiency or looks.

WWDC 2019 Complete Coverage

Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference is a key tech event each year, and for Apple fans, it will be one of the two best times of 2019 (along with "new iPhone day," of course). For the last few years, Apple has debuted much of its…

2019 Ford F-150 RTR gets a light dose of off-road, style upgrades

Vaughn Gittin Jr.'s RTR Vehicles is turning its attention to the 2019 Ford F-150 pickup truck. RTR gave Ford's bestseller new suspension components and tires, as well as more extroverted exterior styling.

GPS units aren't dead! Our favorite models still do things your phone can't

Love hitting the open road but hate having to rely solely on your phone for getting around? Thankfully, the best in-car GPS systems will allow you to navigate and capitalize on a range of features sans your cellular network. Here are our…

Electric truck maker Rivian scores $500 million investment from Ford

Alongside Amazon, Rivian can now count Ford as one of its backers. The Blue Oval will invest $500 million in Rivian, and will use the company's "skateboard" chassis as the basis for a future electric vehicle.

The best diagnostic adapters monitor your car so you don't have to

Sometimes called dongles, the best car adapters will tell you what's wrong under the hood while help you keep tabs on your family and routine maintenance.

Volkswagen prepares its electric ID R race car for its toughest challenge yet

The Volkswagen ID R electric race car will head to the Nürburgring to set a lap record. With Romain Dumas at the wheel, the ID R will try to become the fastest electric car around the grueling, 12.9-mile long track.
Emerging Tech

Japanese taxis will use facial recognition to target you with ads as you ride

A Japanese startup is trying to reinvent in-taxi advertising by using facial recognition technology to identify the key characteristics of riders and then presenting them with appropriate ads.

Stop backing into your neighbor's car with the best backup cameras

The right backup camera will allow you to better avoid vehicles and other obstacles without taking your eyes off the road, rendering "sorry, I hit your car!" notes a thing of the past. Here are our current favorites.

Waze vs. Google Maps: Which map app should you be using?

Waze and Google Maps are two of the most popular apps for those looking for turn-by-turn navigation, yet there are some notable differences to point out. Here, we examine both to decide which offers the best feature set.