Tesla unveils its Roadster, the 'fastest production car ... ever'
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Tesla unveils its Roadster, the 'fastest production car ... ever'

Elon Musk, the chief executive of electric car maker Tesla, has drawn a mixed reaction with his surprise unveiling of a new vehicle, which he claims will be the "fastest production car ever" made.

Some analysts said the new Tesla Roadster, which is capable of going from 0-60 miles per hour (96km/h) in 1.9 seconds, should not distract from the sorry state of company's finances. Others thought it might help plug a funding gap.

Elon Musk hinted the roadster's top speed was "above 250pmh".

Elon Musk hinted the roadster's top speed was "above 250pmh".

Photo: AAP

Mr Musk did not reveal the Roadster's top speed at its launch near Los Angeles.

But he hinted it was "above 250miles per hour" (402km/h). With a 200 kilowatt hour battery pack, the Tesla Roadster will have a range of 620 miles (997km) on a single charge.

The roadster was unveiled theatrically during the launch of a prototype electric truck, dubbed the Tesla Semi.

The roadster was unveiled theatrically during the launch of a prototype electric truck, dubbed the Tesla Semi.

Photo: AP
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"The point of doing this is to give a hardcore smackdown to gasoline cars," he said. "Driving a gasoline sports car is going to feel like a steam engine with a side of quiche."

Production of the new car, an updated version of Tesla's first production vehicle, is expected to begin in 2020 and it will have a base price of $US200,000 ($264,460).

The car was a surprise. It was unveiled theatrically during the launch of a prototype electric truck, dubbed the Tesla Semi.

Mr Musk said the truck, powered by four electric motors, would not break down for 1 million miles and cost only $US1.26 a mile to run compared with $US1.51 for conventional vehicles.

The inventor said using a diesel truck instead of his battery-powered one would amount to "economic suicide".

Some analysts fear the truck will be an expensive distraction for Tesla, which has never posted an annual profit and is burning through cash. Mr Musk admitted that production of the $US35,000 Model 3 sedan is in "manufacturing hell".

The Model 3 was supposed to bring electric motoring to the masses but the company was swamped with almost half a million orders.

Tesla had initially hoped to produce 10,000 cars a week by the start of 2018. Analysts are now worried that it will not be able to achieve half that number because of problems with automation processes on the battery production line.

At the end of the third quarter, the company said it had delivered just 222 Model 3 vehicles. It said it was on track to deliver a total of 100,000 of all the models it makes over the course of the whole year.

Building cars at this rate has been tough on Tesla's finances. The last quarterly report shows a net loss of $US619.4 million, compared to a profit of $US21.9 million over the same period last year, despite revenue rising 30 per cent to just under $US3 billion.

UBS has questioned how long Tesla can sustain such losses.

Analyst Colin Langan said: "The market should not ignore fundamental challenges that persist with regards to Tesla's Model 3 profitability. We believe Tesla will eventually need extra outside funding."

The analyst also warned that established car companies are catching up with Tesla and it will face "increased pressure on demand as luxury automakers launch competing products from 2018".

Shares in Tesla, which peaked at more than $US380 in June, valuing the company at $US61 billion, have since dipped back to around $US312.

Jefferies analysts said that the new roadster was more than a stunt to distract investors from Tesla's woes and believe it could be a smart financial play by Mr Musk.

Analyst Philippe Houchois said: "The offer to sell upfront 1000 limited edition models could raise $US250 million, in addition to $US50,000 deposits on reservations."

The Daily Telegraph, London

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