Tesla's Elon Musk Relishes Being the Winner, Not Loser




By Phil LeBeau, CNBC Correspondent

NEW YORK ( CNBC) -- Tesla ( TSLA)CEO Elon Musk may not admit it publicly, but right now he has to be laughing to himself.

During the final weeks of the presidential campaign, Republican nominee Mitt Romney called Tesla a "loser." Romney was lumping Tesla in with Solyndra, Fisker, A123 and lithium-ion cell maker Ener1.

All five received Department of Energy loans. Given the way Solyndra collapsed and Ener1 and A123 filed for bankruptcy, Romney was hammering President Obama on DOE loans and government getting involved with private companies.

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One week after the election, Romney has lost and Tesla has won. Monday night in New York, the Tesla Model S was named Motor Trend's 2013 Car of the Year. It's an honor Musk is relishing. "Winning Motor Trend Car of the year is probably the closest thing to winning the Oscar or Emmy of the car industry. We're honored to win it," said Musk. "This is the first electric car named car of the year which is a turning point in history, it's a milestone."

Motor Trend Editor-at-large Angus MacKenzie wrote about picking the Model S, "I expect we'll get grumpy email from folks who simply hate the idea of an electric car like the Tesla. That's OK. They haven't driven this one, so they can't possibly comprehend that it's nothing like a golf cart."

Model S Ramp Up on Schedule

After delivering more than 250 Model S sedans in the 3rd quarter, Tesla finds itself facing plenty of question marks about whether or not it can ramp up production to 20,000 models next year and go from being a niche automaker to becoming a mass manufacturer. Musk says the concerns are unfounded. "I feel very confident about 2013. We're production limited, not demand limited," said Musk.

After reporting a loss of $110 Million ($1.05/share) loss last quarter while building approximately 29 Model S sedans per week, this is the quarter when Musk's company goes from walking to running. By the end of the year, Tesla hopes to build 400 Model S vehicles per week. It's a steep increase in production that will tell us a lot about Tesla and whether it can continue meeting expectations.

Political Punching Bag

A week after the end of the Presidential campaign, Musk can joke about being a "political punching bag." Calling himself a moderate with middle of the road political views, Musk has said little about how he felt about Mitt Romney labeling Tesla "a loser." But then you see a slight smile cross his face and he says, "I'm just glad the election is over. My god, I'm tired of getting pummeled."

--Written by Phil LeBeau at CBNC
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