What Are 6 Secrets You Didn't Know About Tesla (TSLA)?

Since Tesla produced the first Roadster sports car in 2008, Tesla Motors Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) and its chief executive officer (CEO) Elon Musk have cemented their status as icons of technology and innovation. Now with big corporations like PepsiCo., Walmart, and Anheuser-Busch placing big orders for the electric semi-autonomous truck, Tesla is digging in deeper.

While automakers such as Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) and General Motors Company (NYSE: GM) have dabbled in electric vehicles as part of their larger lineups, Tesla is the most well-known name focusing solely on electric cars. But as the competition is increasing, Tesla has come under fire for production issues, slow deliveries, and burning through cash.

Key Takeaways

  • Some less commonly known facts about Tesla include that Elon Musk didn't exactly found the company, Tesla's designs are open-sourced, and that Musk spent just two days in grad school.
  • Other facts about Tesla that don't get the headlines: Tesla's sales model is illegal in most states, Tesla comes with a built-in "Insane Mode," and that Elon Musk doesn't exactly take a salary.

In Q2 2018, Tesla predicted that it would need to produce 7,000 cars a week, or 350,000 a year, in order to become sustainably profitable. Tesla fell short of that number in Q3 2018, managing to produce roughly 4,300 units per week, but still reported revenues of $6.8 billion compared to $3.0 billion over the same period the previous year. However, in 2019, Tesla met the 350,000 production mark, producing over 365,000 vehicles.

Understanding 6 Secrets You Didn't Know About Tesla (TSLA)?

Tesla is Musk's fourth big technology venture, following successful launches of Zip2, PayPal Corporation (NASDAQ: PYPL), and SpaceX. Most people are probably familiar with the Tesla story, but here are a few things that people may not know about the electric automotive company and its leader.

Elon Musk Didn't Exactly Found Tesla

When it comes to Tesla and Musk, it's difficult to think of one without the other. With that type of connection, many may assume that Musk is the founder of the company, but that's actually not the case.

Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning founded Tesla in 2003. Musk didn't join the company until 2004, when he provided most of the funding for the company's Series A investments, joining Tesla's board of directors in the process. This fact is a bit complicated because the company considers Musk a founder. This hasn't sat well with Eberhard over the years, who attempted to sue Musk in 2009, saying he "set out to re-write history." 

Tesla's Designs Are Open-Sourced

On June 12, 2014, Musk posted a blog entry on Tesla's website titled "All Our Patent Are Belong to You." In the post, Musk talks about his goal of creating sustainable transportation for everyone, and he felt that enforcing patents on Tesla's technology would inhibit that goal.

In essence, Musk said that he wanted the world to move in this direction, even if it came at Tesla's expense. Anybody with the time, resources, and motivation could build their own electric car by using Tesla's own blueprints.

Musk Spent Just Two Days in Grad School

In 1997, Musk graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with degrees in physics and economics. Upon completion of those programs, he moved to California to begin work towards a Ph.D. in physics at Stanford. Musk didn't take long to decide that the graduate program wasn't for him. He left Stanford after just two days to focus on his software company, Zip2, instead.

Tesla's Sales Model Is Illegal in Most States

Tesla's former direct-to-consumer sales model is unique in the auto industry, but in most places, it's actually illegal.

Tesla doesn't have any dealerships. Instead, it operates showrooms where consumers can see some of the vehicle models up close and learn about their features. There are no traditional salespeople, test drives are limited or even unavailable in certain locations, and showroom personnel direct buyers to the website when they are ready to make a purchase. Anybody wishing to buy a Tesla needs to go online, order the car, and wait for it to be delivered.

Most states have laws requiring that vehicle sales be completed through licensed dealerships. With Tesla operating zero dealerships, the company would technically not be allowed to sell vehicles directly to the consumer, and would instead be left with only the online sales option. Some states are beginning to soften their stance on this requirement, and Tesla has begun changing to sell cars in their showrooms and specific dealerships.

Tesla Comes With a Built-in Insane Mode

Models with the P85D engine can flip the car to "Insane Mode," which puts all of the vehicle's power into acceleration at once, and covers the distance in 3.2 seconds.

Not to be outdone, cars with the P100D engine have a similar "Ludicrous Mode," a clever nod to "Spaceballs," one of Musk's favorite films. 

Elon Musk Doesn't Have a Salary

Musk isn't scraping to get by, but he also isn't living on a week-to-week paycheck either. Musk's payment plan recently changed so that he gets massive payouts when the company hits specific financial goals.

If the company hits its goals, a market cap of $650 billion, for example, Musk could see a payday of around $14.8 billion.