After a few faulty starts, entrepreneur Elon Musk’s Space-X finally became the first private company to launch a cargo ship into orbit last month. But what has taken real rocket science is coming up with the right product and technology to make Musk’s other firm, Tesla Motors, a viable competitor in the hotly competitive auto industry.
After running up losses off more than $750 million since its founding in 2003, the Silicon Valley start-up will launch a product arguably even more important than the Space-X Dragon cargo ship. The 2013 Tesla Model-S will be the firm’s first mainstream passenger car and quite likely its make-it-or-break-it attempt to crack a market dominated by multinational giants like General Motors, Toyota Motor Co. and Daimler AG.
“If it delivers on its promises – not only in sales volume, but also in quality and reliability – the S will propel Tesla into the black and provide working capital to develop of the next line of Tesla vehicles,” said green car analyst John Odell, of the automotive data firm Edmunds.
But Musk and company have made some big promises – with relatively little history to show they can deliver.