Tesla electrifies the auto market

Giuseppe Macri Tech Editor
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Automobile stocks gained a spark Tuesday after American electric auto manufacturer Tesla Motors (TSLA) broke $100 per share, claiming a starting line spot in a resurgent American auto industry.

The market gain races in on the heels of Tesla’s surprising repayment last week of a $465 million loan the company received from the Department of Energy in 2010 — nine years earlier than it was due.

Tesla is the only automaker no longer indebted to American taxpayers out of Ford Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co., Fisker and the Vehicle Production Group LLC. All five received loans to develop clean energy vehicles based on advanced sustainable tech.

Market interest was likely boosted by expectation of an announcement to expand the network of charging stations for the company’s 2013 Motor Trend car of the year, the Tesla Model S.

In addition to the $70,000 Model S seen out-dragging the Dodge Viper and BMW M5 (and of which tax credits are available to offset the price), Tesla has produced a limited Roadster and plans to fund development of two more vehicles, including an SUV, at half the price of the Model S.

With shares up 57 percent in May and 150 percent for the year, CEO Elon Musk, dubbed the real-life “Tony Stark,” has a cause to celebrate a week that could make the fictional “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist” blush — including a market value increase of $3 billion and its first year of profit, $1 billion in fund raising, and its highest sales projection after reporting 10,000 Model S sales.

“I would like to thank the Department of Energy and the members of Congress and their staffs that worked hard to create the ATVM program, and particularly the American taxpayer from whom these funds originate. I hope we did you proud,” Musk said in a statement last week according to Bloomberg.

Consumer Reports recently awarded the Tesla Model S with its highest auto test rating in history, topping the list of rechargeable vehicles sold during the first quarter of 2013, including the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf.

Tesla continues to break away from the pack of stereotypes portrayed by failed electric upstarts like Fisker and Solyndra, described as “loser” government investments by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney last year. After last week, Tesla, established in 2003, has comparable value to Mazda Motor Corp., originally founded in 1920, and is worth more than Fiat.

Tesla manufactures its vehicles out of a former Toyota plant in Fremont, Calif., and so far has only serviced deliveries in North America.

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