It's hard to overstate what Tesla has accomplished so far. Creating a major new car company is a monumental undertaking. But an electric car company? The degree of difficulty is off the charts, which makes Tesla's progress nothing short of remarkable. Not that its work is complete. Far from it.
Still, Tesla and CEO Elon Musk have built their first semi-affordable car, the Model S, from scratch, through an alchemy of engineering, software, battery advancements, and vision. Sales of the Model S (priced at $49,900 for the "mass-luxury" market) were 20% higher than expected, and Tesla completed more than 20,000 of the vehicles in the first full year of production. In the first nine months of 2013, the company more than tripled its 2012 revenue.
Considered a make-or-break product, the Model S remains on track, despite a recent speed bump. A few months after giving the car a top safety rating, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched an investigation into battery-charging adapters after some highly publicized vehicle fires. In January, Tesla recalled the adapters on more than 29,000 cars to fix the problem.
At the same time, Telsa completed the first phase of its ambitious build-out of a national network of fast-charging stations for its vehicles. Its 71 stations span North America, reaching 80% of the population, according to Musk. By year's end, Telsa aims to have 100 stations and a 98% reach.