Fifteen years ago today, on August 2nd, 2006, Co-Founder and CEO of what was then called “Tesla Motors” Elon Musk put out his top-secret Master Plan. Essentially, the cleverly titled document outlined what Musk envisioned for Tesla a few years before it would ever pump an electric vehicle off its production lines. Musk, who has built Tesla from nothing to the world’s most valuable automaker, with the help of employees and other executives, of course, showed the plan that would take the company to the top. At the tail-end of the document, the general ideas of the “Master Plan” are explicitly listed, giving anyone with even a glimmer of skepticism a clear-cut plan of what was to come.
Musk’s four bullet points cleverly stated:
- Build sports car
- Use that money to build an affordable car
- Use that money to build an even more affordable car
- While doing above, also provide zero-emission electric power generation options.
1. Build a sports car
The Tesla Roadster was the automaker’s first car. Priced exclusively for those who were financially viable and well-known, the Roadster was essentially a fundraising device used by Tesla to get its name out there and generate capital for a second all-electric car. “Almost any new technology initially has high unit cost before it can be optimized, and this is no less true for electric cars,” Musk wrote in 2006. “The strategy of Tesla is to enter at the high end of the market, where customers are prepared to pay a premium, and then drive down market as fast as possible to higher unit volume and lower prices with each successive model.”
This is exactly what was accomplished. The Roadster was bought by celebrities and wealthy figures of the public who were driving an all-electric, sustainable vehicle that did not contribute to the global environmental crisis that was upon us. The Roadster was snagged up by stars like Olivia Newton-John, Leonardo DiCaprio, and others, all as a way to generate money so Tesla could dive into developing its next project: the Model S.
2. Use that money to build an affordable car
“Without giving away too much, I can say that the second model will be a sporty four-door family car at roughly half the $89k price point of the Tesla Roadster,” Musk said when speaking of the Model S before any concrete details were known.
Since the Model S was first released in 2012, it has accumulated several significant awards, including Motortrend’s Car of the Year award on several occasions. The Model S has also held high standards for crash safety and ranks among the safest vehicles on the market. After being reimagined with the recent release of the Model S Plaid, the flagship sedan from Tesla is better than ever before and is recognized as the fastest production car on the planet.
3. Use that money to build an even more affordable car
This is where Musk’s plan takes a slight detour. The Model X was actually produced before the Model 3, and it was not more affordable than the Model S. However, Musk’s recognition that Tesla customers needed a family vehicle ultimately put the Model X ahead of the Model 3. However, the plan was still going relatively well. The Roadster funneled money to the Model S program, which ultimately cultivated in the Model X. The Model 3 followed in 2017 and became Tesla’s first mass-market vehicle.
It was not an easy road to this point, however. Musk commonly refers to the Model 3 ramp as “production hell,” which was likely one of the most challenging phases of his life, likely comparable to when Tesla and SpaceX were nearly bankrupt in late 2008. The Model 3 ramp was met with difficulty due to scalability, production quality, and other bottlenecks that ultimately made the process much tougher than ever imagined. Musk has said that Tesla was on the verge of bankruptcy during the early phases of Model 3 production, stating that doors were about a month away from closing. It was “extreme stress & pain for a long time.”
Much like anything difficult, the Model 3 ramp was undoubtedly worth it. The vehicle managed to make Tesla a money-maker, and directly contributed to the company’s ongoing streak of profitable quarters. The Model 3 is on par with its sibling Model Y, which has become Tesla’s most popular car. The Model 3 still contributes substantially to the automaker’s increasing delivery and production figures that rise on a quarter-over-quarter basis to this day.
4. While doing above, also provide zero-emission electric power generation options
While Tesla is most commonly noted for its vehicles, its energy division does not receive enough credit. Tesla Energy has continued to grow every quarter, and energy deployment and generation figures increase with every quarterly update the company provides. Most recently, Tesla stated that energy storage deployments more than tripled Year-over-Year in Q2, mainly driven by Megapack projects. Powerwall, Tesla’s residential energy storage option, continues to be in high demand and nearly doubled YoY in Q2. Additionally, Tesla’s solar deployments more than tripled YoY, reaching 85 MW in Q2.
Tesla’s energy program has helped residents worldwide avoid blackouts and power outages while also accumulating significant amounts of energy directly from the sun.
It is pretty safe to say that Tesla has done an outstanding job keeping up with Elon Musk’s top-secret Master Plan. But one last thing:
Hard to believe it’s been 15 years already.
Those goals actually precede the creation of Tesla by many years. Goes back to probably ~1992 when I was in college. However, at the time, I thought the chance of achieving those goals was very low.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 2, 2021