Tesla: 'Loser' Along With Ener1, Solyndra, And Fisker, Romney Says

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Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney

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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has weighed in with his verdict on startup electric-car maker Tesla Motors: It's a "loser."

So, for that matter, is another startup that's still in business, Fisker Automotive.

The two car companies were lumped in with a pair of bankrupt businesses, lithium-ion cell maker Ener1 (which was later refinanced) and solar-panel maker Solyndra.

All four companies received loans or grants from the Department of Energy and other agencies during the Obama presidency.

Romney said, responding to Obama's suggestion that tax breaks for the oil and gas industry be eliminated:

... don't forget, you put $90 billion, like 50 years' worth of breaks, into -- into solar and wind, to Solyndra and Fisker and [Tesla] and Ener1.

I mean, I had a friend who said you don't just pick the winners and losers, you pick the losers, all right?

So this -- this is not -- this is not the kind of policy you want to have if you want to get America energy secure.

(Editor's note: The ABC News transcript of the debates had rendered Tesla as "Tester.")

Romney returned to the theme a second time, without naming the companies specifically:

You put $90 billion into -- into green jobs. And I -- look, I'm all in favor of green energy. $90 billion, that would have -- that would have hired 2 million teachers. $90 billion.

And these businesses, many of them have gone out of business, I think about half of them, of the ones have been invested in have gone out of business.

A number of them happened to be owned by people who were contributors to your campaigns.

[UPDATE: Michael Grunwald, senior national correspondent at Time Magazine, tweeted today that the Romney campaign told him the candidate "didn't mean to say that half the stimulus-funded green firms failed." He posits that the correct figure is probably about 1 percent.]

[UPDATE 2: The correct number appears to be 9 percent, not 50 percent.]

While clearly Ener1's bankruptcy and the collapse of Solyndra would likely qualify those companies as losers, the case for Fisker and especially Tesla seems less clear.

Fisker Automotive is still in business, still shipping its Karma range-extended electric luxury sedan, and just closed a new $100 million round of private financing.

Under a new CEO, Tony Posawatz, it is proceeding with development of its next product, the mid-size Atlantic sedan, and exploring alliances with strategic partners in the auto industry.

And Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] is now delivering dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of its new 2012 Model S all-electric sport sedans to the list of more than 10,000 depositors who've put down up to $50,000 to reserve cars when they are available.

Barack Obama

Barack Obama

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We reached out to both Tesla and Fisker for their reactions, if any.

Tesla spokeswoman Christina Ra responded that the company did not have a comment.

Fisker spokesman Roger Ormisher responded, "We don’t consider ourselves a loser, having sold 1,500 cars already and raised over $1.2 billion of private equity."

The company, he continued, is "now expanding our export markets to [the Middle East] and China, [so] we believe that is a quite an achievement for a small American business."

But what do you think: Is this just the usual election-year hyperbole of presidential politics, or could it have an effect on public perception of the two startup plug-in carmakers?

Are Romney's comments justified, or do they betray a lack of understanding of the green-technology world?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.


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Comments (97)
  1. This is a continued colossal misrepresentation of business, in this case 'green.' Romney is playing to all the misinformation out there in hopes. It is really quite sad.

    You can turn on Fox News and watch Chevy be attacked because in a crash test on Chevy Volt caught fire 5-days after the test. You won’t hear much about the 180,000 gasoline cars that caught fire after crashes in 2011.

    Solar bankruptcies such as Solyndra, Evergreen, and Solar Millennium will be replayed over and over. Less airplay will be given to the intense competitive progress that has made solar power 100 times less expensive than 40 years ago and fueled an industry growth of over 30 percent annually for decades.

  2. I think Romney should learn first that airplanes need to keep their windows closed when flying... then, he should think a little more about energy sustainability.
    Really... :(

  3. I meant Mr. Mitt Romney (forgot the title, sorry)

  4. Great innovation is possible when you’re not afraid of failure.

    American innovators are working day and night from California to New York and from Michigan to Tennessee. Breakthroughs are being nurtured to commercial success in IT cloud services, RE financial services, energy efficient motors and buildings, electric batteries and electric cars (Tesla and Fisker included).

    Yes, there will be more failure than success, duds will get more news time than dynamos, but the innovations that transform our lives for the better will triumph.

    In the future, we will increasingly ride in electric vehicles smart charged with renewable energy.

  5. Absolutely!

  6. Wow, Tom, brilliantly put, in both posts, I would say. Better than I ever could have put it. I hope we see you again here to help dispel the misinformation.

  7. Well thank you.

  8. You're welcome.

  9. Anything that comes out of Romney's mouth is just beyond deserving any understating at all, I cringed when I saw that face in the news feed. Mitt Romney is just a joke too far, and that's from an outside perspective (Ireland)!

  10. Proves how short sighted this idiot is!

  11. I suspect there are a fair amount of registered Republicans that will, for the first time not vote for the party. I personally know a couple hardcore EV enthusiasts that are republicans and will not vote for Mitt because of his stance on electric vehicles and renewable energy. He needs every vote he can get and his foolish stance on these issues is a mistake.

  12. Obama needs to get in his game and stand up for what he has accomplished rather than look down with a grim face when confronted! I put a 9.8 Kw solar system on my house (in Seattle) last week for half the price it would have cost 4 years ago. It's got an 8 year ROI and after that, about 90% of my households electricity will be coming from the sun that falls on my roof, for free! President Obama's policies helped spur tremendous competition, most notably from China which caused the price of PV solar to plunge even from US makers when China decided to flood the market with cheap panels. Solyndra was a casualty to that, but the effect on the market was the accomplishement, we now have affordable solar and that is a huge accomplishment!

  13. George, as a Volt driver who's been considering the move to solar at home only recently, any suggestions for good web sites? Did you use a national company or someone local? Just wondering if there's a better approqch than I'm just starting myself.

    Again, very insightful, common sense comments here. Too bad common sense isn't more prevalent...

  14. What city do you live in? I can make some suggestions.

  15. Near Detroit, thanks!

  16. Try SolarCity

  17. Thank you, will look into SolarCity, as well as Sunpower from another comment. I had actually planned to switch to geothermal at home this year and look at solar in 2-3 years, but now that I have a Volt, I'd like to reverse the order.

  18. We put Sunpower panels on our house to charge the Leaf. They make the most efficient panels on the market (less space needed on your roof) and they are a U.S. based company. Zero down, and we've been earning enough credits from excess capacity to actually cover our lease for the last 3 months!

  19. Eric, thank you very much. Time for some research and I'll look at Sunpower closely. I also commented above...

  20. The company that I work for www.realgoodssolar.com is one of the largest solar companies in the U.S., has been doing solar for 34 years, and a premier Sunpower dealer. Happy to show you what Sunpower can do for you.

    Eric P - We have a $500 referral program also, if you are interested.

  21. Tom C., thank you again and I'll be looking into realgoodsolar.com as well now. Time to get that research started...

  22. Congrats on going solar. I use the solar on my home to charge my Nissan Leaf.

  23. Further, to say that Tesla and Fisker are losers and plan to eliminate subsidy to zero emission vehicles is actually picking the winners and losers. Both Tesla and Fisker are still alive, despite every effort to kill the electric car coming from the likes of Faux news. It may take a lot longer than any of us would like, but getting the electric car up to the economy of scale for mass market affordability and adoption is key to this nation's energy future. Fisker and Tesla are going at it from the luxury car end. Electricity can be made from gas and coal while plentiful, but as those resources get depleted, which is just a matter of time, electricity can be made plentifully from renewable sources.

  24. While I think it is fair to question US investment in ANYTHING; It's sad that Gov. Romney picked on Tesla. Of all the companies he listed in the debate, Tesla has the best shot of repaying the loans (with interest). They also have the most desireable technology as witnessed by their large backlog of orders.

  25. LOL!! was kinda worried Obama would not get re-elected but no more! Thank you Mitt for having big feet!

    with Mitt's logic i guess we need to take a hard look at the balance sheet of a few other "businesses" like the Highway Fund, Social Security, the Post office, Medicare, the Education fund... (should i go on?)

    of the above, if they were private businesses, which one of them would still be standing today?

  26. I don't know why Obama didn't point out that there are now more American worker installing solar than mining coal.
    I don't know why Obama didn't point out the number of Americans already reducing out need for more oil by driving plugin cars like the Fisker and Tesla.
    I don't know why Obama didn't point out that there is no such thing as clean coal and the market is moving away from coal to cleaner and cheap alternative already.
    I don't know why Obama didn't mention the true cost of oil in that we spend trillions of dollars and untold lives using our military to protect the source of oil in the middle-east.
    I don't know why Obama missed such a great opportunity to list the many successes in new energy, both private and public.

  27. Solar is about 1% of our electric supply.

  28. James, which industry has more workers, solar or coal? You've missed the whole point of the post and simply changed the subject because it doesn't fit your views.

  29. Mitt is a party line puppet. Nothing more.

  30. I'm surprised the White House took the time to send 15 comments to an obscure site like CarConnecton. I'm glad Mitt had the insight to view Tesla and Fisker as losers. I'll bet my pension they are both out of business in 4 years. If these 'green' industries can survive without my tax dollars, fine. But, if they are only surviving with my money, good riddance.

  31. Yeah, as opposed to spending far more money and humanlives on the Republican War of the Week. Iran 2013 look appealing to you? I mean, Iraq went so well, Afghanistan is great, of course, and Iran is far stronger militarily and financially than either. If Mr. Romney wins, will we be there for 10 years or 20?

  32. robok2: I assume you live in a cave and had not heard we were attacked on 9/11, like Dec. 7 (WWII for cave dwellers).
    John: I thought this was a Green Car Site not bias political commentary

  33. @Pat: Perhaps I'm naive, but please identify for me the sentences above that are not factual but "bias [sic] political commentary".

    FYI, we have many, many readers who are eager to read any news about Tesla, both the cars and the company. This was a newsworthy item, which is why we ran the story.

    But again, please identify the parts you view as "bias". Thanks.

  34. John: I was not talking about the article, I was talking about some of the comments from very bias morons, that Mitt Romey would wipe the floor in a debate, kind of like the President.

  35. Pat, perhaps you're the one who lives in a cave, or rather, should. Iraq was not involved in the 9/11 attack, despite hilarious attempts to make it seem that way.

    And please, if you want to use the word "bias" so often, learn to use it and spell it properly. It's "biased views," not bias views. Ever heard of an adjective?

    I'll help you out, it's biased political commentary. Biased views, etc... But comments filled with bias, for example. Now you can both confirm that Iraq wasn't part of the 9/11 attack in any way and learn to correctly use a word you clearly want to use repeatedly...

    Ah, yes, the irony of a person who still thinks Iraq was responsible for 9/11 accusing others of bias... How many of the 16 were from Iraq again? Zero.

  36. Amen, No truer words were ever spoken.

  37. Romney will say anything to get elected. The same green loan also funded Ford's $5.9 Billion program as well as Nissan. But that is very typical of Romney.

    The problem was that Obama appeared to be "unprepared" and "too nice". Sure you don't have to lower yourself to the same "stupid" level as Romney (by NOT having any details on anything). But there is NO need to be "nice" about it.

    The Obama supports will vote for Obama and the Romney supporters will vote for Romney. The undecided are usually "clueless" and lack the capability of "logic reasoning". So Obama doesn't need to be logical winning those people over...

  38. I believe the bewildered look of President Obama was his reaction of disbelief while facing blatant lies by Romney. Unless Lying is a way of life for Romney, why else would he choose Lyan Ryan (ryan's local nickname) for a running mate?

  39. DrBob: President Obama has written the book on lying, I think he has a PHD in it!

  40. So Romney reckons Tesla is a looser...guess that's what he and Tesla have in common then if the polls are any indication.

    Title iseems a bit misleading though, this is mostly about recycling the Solyndra debacle with Fisker and Tesla thrown in for good measure, by a guy hired to represent corporate interests in general and oil interests in particular.

    At the end of the day the opinion of a looser isn't that interesting though.

  41. Both candiates are picking winners and losers. Both parties are rewarding campaign donors with subsidies, loans and favorable legislation. Anyone who points a finger at one without acknowledging the faults of the other is either confused by partisan rhetoric or blinded by their ideology.

    I strongly believe the elctrification of vehicles is the future and burning carbon will fade into the past. Once the technology becomes viable and afforable, consumers will make this transition, not our politicians or political parties.

  42. I agree with almost everything you wrote, but I feel that the pace and cost of the technology is being driven down as much by the government as private industry. Without incentives, there would be far less research and progress, I would argue. To what degree is a different matter, of course.

  43. I'm sorry I got a little animated by some of the more partisan comments on this blog.

    I agree the buyer's incentives and energy loans have helped a lot to spur development and adoption of EVs and EREVs. But, I still believe something like the Envia battery is the key to much wider adoption. Once the range and cost of EVs improve, the incentives won't be necessary. This follows what happened with hybrids.

  44. I don't know enough about the Envia battery to comment there yet, but I will agree that incentives need to be gradually phased out over the next few years as the technology becomes stronger and more viable on its own.

    But government support in the sense of pure research, especially through universities, should be continued.

  45. True, but politicians like Romney are more dangerous because, just like Reagan, the first order of business will be to erase all subsidies to clean energy, while continuing to fund big oil (including rather expensive battleships constantly cruising the persian gulf, which aren't often added to the math). You're right though, until corporate monies stop funding our politicians neither side is innocent. To me though, the GOP is more blatantly obvious about its motives.

  46. Just to be ABSOLUTELY CLEAR, the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) program, which funded both Tesla and Fisker, was put in place and signed into law by George W. Bush, not Obama. I also believe the largest recipient by a long shot may have been Ford, and while I don't remember exactly, I think the same law was used to bail out the large Auto companies back in 2008.

  47. @Eugene: Indeed, Ford got $5.9 billion (right around the time GM and Chrysler were being restructured using Federal funds) and Nissan got $1.6 billion (of which it used only $1.4 billion). The Nissan and Tesla loans are small potatoes compared to those two grants.

    It was not the DoE Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program that was used to bail out GM and Chrysler, however. Different funding altogether.

  48. Eugene: It was passed by the Democrat run House and Senate but you are right Bush did sign it, probably connected to a needed funding bill. Ford is a 50 billion dollar company, not a startup and the loan was used to improve its American factory's efficiency. It was never used for bail outs.

  49. Well, Tesla is a Publically traded company as well. Ford got more than 10x times what Tesla got. And the money is NOT just for factory improvement. It also destinated for "fuel efficiency" improvment and other "green" technology research.

    "Bail out"? Bail outs are loans. Ford got a loan so did other "bail out" company. It just happens sometimes loans don't get paid back...

  50. @Xiaolong: Many industry insiders seem to feel that the Ford loans were a form of compensation to that company for the fact that its two domestic competitors were both being restructured with U.S. taxpayer funds.

    And to your point, the vast bulk of the Ford loan went to expansion and faster rollout of its EcoBoost high-efficiency engine downsizing program--not to hybrids or electrics.

  51. Sure, bulk of the money went to New product launch (which is green) so the rest of the Ford's money can go to other areas...

    It helps Ford's cash flow regardless where and how it is spent...

  52. The same can be said with Tesla. The loan was spending on rolling out Tesla S faster and ramp up the production...

  53. Science and business require honest evaluation of results.

    Be honest about the Fisker Karma: 5000 lbs, 20 mpg (Motor Trend), caught fire while being tested for Consumer Reports, losing money on each one so far.

    As a venture to push technology OK. It's not so easy to develop a car from scratch. As a business venture not so hot up to this point. Hopefully they'll turn this around.

  54. Ted: Amen!

  55. Anyone who thinks Tesla is a loser has not driven one. That makes them ignorant. Ignorance can be cured Mitt, go drive a Tesla.

  56. I agree with what you said in principle except some forms of "ignorance" can't be cured in a lot of people...

  57. Li: You proved your point by your own statement, Thank you.

  58. Really? I have defeated your silly point ever since you started posting.

    Whatever, stop wasting my time. Finish your GED first...

  59. Mitt doesn't drive anything. He has people for that!

  60. Tom: Your ridiculous, lying about people is not ethical and does not belong on this web site, right John?

  61. @Pat: I'm not sure how any of us would prove whether or not Mitt Romney drives himself. I know that the president is not allowed by the Secret Service to drive himself, and it's possible that prohibition has been expanded to Romney as the Republican presidential candidate as well.

    More than that, I'm not sure--to be honest--that whether or not Mitt Romney drives himself or has hired help do it is really the most important point of dispute here.

    I'd rather focus on the facts of the discussion in the first presidential debate, which was what the article above is actually about. Fair?

  62. Eric: Tesla S appears to be a fine car but with the 300 mile battery it cost $85,000. Very few Americans can afford a car of this price and the rest of the tax payers should not be subsiding these purchases. Tesla is a startup company which in history are domed to failure, unfortunately, look at Tucker a very advanced cars for the 1940's.

  63. And they use the remaining $ 77,500 they take from every rich buyer to fund the development of affordable EV's. Think long term.

    Tesla's main achievement is that they have made EV's sexy as hell. That alone is well worth the $7,500 tax credit.

  64. Anne: Maybe you have not heard, we are running a 1.5 Trillion dollar deficit. We can not afford funding rich people's toys. If they are so good let them pay for them, they can afford them, the tax payers can not!

  65. how about getting rid of all "Reglious" donation deductions?

    People get deductions for buying a house, having kids, having a belief...etc. So, people who buy those cars get a tax credit on their own taxes.

    Do you even pay enough taxes to talk here?

  66. I'd like to know what Romney would have to say if the CEO of Tesla was a, let's say, Texas guy with a cigar in his mouth. But in fact Elon Musk is an immigrant, and so it's not a thoroughbred American company, so nothing to support.

  67. Twitter to the American Voters, Tesla gives you a lifetime free sun-powered-movement if you buy a Tesla car.
    Hopefully also soon in europe.

  68. I'm not defending Romney's comment or Tesla's reputation. However, in the business world winning or losing is often defined by a company's profitability. How does Tesla fair in that department since the company was formed? I think the jury is still out on Tesla's winner or loser status, but a company that has taxpayer money at risk deserves extra scrutiny. I have a Model S on order, so I'm rooting for winner!

  69. Steve: Amen.

  70. You pray a lot.

  71. Anne: Yes, thank you for recognizing.

  72. Well, You get a tax deduction for your "praying", and I get a tax credits for my EV belief... It is only fair that way...

  73. Li: Again you do not know what your talking about, I have never deducted my charity donations from my income taxes!

  74. You never do? Good for you or stupid you...

    Plenty of LDS (mormon) friends that I have used donate to their charity and church and have deducted the donation. (same as Mitt).

    Now, whether you do it or NOT is different from you "get" to do it or NOT. "get" to do it means you are allowed to do by "law".

    Same apply to EV credits. You don't have to claim it, but you are allowed to claim it.

    Same with HOV sticker.

    So, good for you that you donate money for charity but don't get tax deductions.

  75. There are more comments in this thread
  76. Tesla has never made a dime.

  77. Fortunately, that has not been at taxpayer expense. Tesla has about $750M assets and as far as I can tell somewhere near the same total investment. They say they will pay back the $465M DoE loan in the next couple of years.

    With about 13000 order order back-log is approximately $900M in sales. I don't know what their profit margin is, but I expect it is much lower than 50% so there is no way they can pay off the DoE loan with the current sales on the books. Maybe they could pay as much as $200M from booked sales.

  78. And Toyota lost far more initially on the Prius. I guess Toyota should have given up then.

  79. I think it is funny. The program that made and approved the loan to Tesla was created by President George Bush. Unlike Fisker, TM has a U.S. factory (Fremont, CA), and makes cars in the U.S.A.

  80. Yes and 3,500 JOBs as well, you remember those, don't you?
    Nice way to alienate most of the forward thinking electorate as well, Mitt.
    Keep putting that foot in your mouth, an Obama landslide would be excellent.

  81. Unfortunately, it's not gonna be a landslide. It's gonna be close. Make sure to vote.

  82. 6:00 news:


    10:00 news:


    BBC video of fire (go to 6:21 into the video to start)


  83. Thanks for the article John - it really shocked me when Romney said Tesla was a loser because I see them as a shining example of the American dream. World class innovation and a drive to do what's right no matter what the odds. Just like the way he wanted the U.S. auto industry to just eat it when they were suffering, now he shows his inability to see and encourage what's good.

  84. About George Romney’s, (Mitt’s dad’s) automotive contribution, the Nash (American Motors) Rambler, I don’t see Ramblers anymore; that’s a loser.

    But Tesla? I think it’s jury’s still out. The going looks good, so far though.

  85. At some point, I hope Green Car Reports becomes EXACTLY that, a report on the market share of each type of green car or high mileage car. When this is done, you will end up devoting about 1% of your space to electric cars.

  86. Is there anything more pathetic than a bitter person who hates EVs and alternative power, while knowing nothing about either? Oh, that's right, the same person who spends every day attacking something he's never driven and still is obsessed with destroying something that will dominate before that long... Don't worry, James, one of your grandchildren will explain everything to you eventually so you can follow along...

  87. $90 Billion on 4 companies???

    Tesla $492M Loan, not grant, and expected to be repaid.
    Fisker $200M, still intends to repay.
    Solyndra $565M loan and $26M tax breaks. Lost due to bankruptcy.
    Ener1 $118.5M grant. Lost due to bankruptcy.

    Total $1.4B

    Oil subsidies $409B for 2010.

    How on earth do they get away with such astoundingly fictitious "facts"? It seem there are no limits to the lies politicians can state without being sued and often not even corrected.

  88. Roy: Where to start the factitious facts are yours. 409B, nonsense try 1.9B in tax deductions for depreciation of drilling equipment. If you read the article Mr. Romney did not say 90B on four companies, you did. You left out the 800M to Nancy Pelosi's brother in law imagine that!

  89. I agree with you about politicians. Quick question. If someone gives you an idea that made you 2 billion and the person that gave you the idea asked you for $1.5 million, would you give it to him?

  90. Detroit is littered with the names of companies bankrupt as part of the American way of creating innovation. Packard, Studebaker, Nash, Hudson and many others fell victim to competition. Likewise the Computer industry can list ALR, AST, Everex, Digital Equipment and many others as casualties. In the meantime they provided innovation and jobs to those who worked to implement their visions of innovation. They provided jobs and moved the market forward. They may have lost out to competition but they are part of the competitive process. I guess Mitt's idea of success is taking over a company, giving jobs to foreign workers and raiding the pension plans for his "work" in creating winners.

  91. Don: That never happened, Mr Romney took bankrupt companies and restructured them saving 1000's of jobs.

  92. Don, just the opposite, Mitt does not want the government in business, playing and financing favorites and writing ridiculous regulations that create an unfair playing field for industry.

  93. What would have been a great comeback to "you gave 50 years worth of oil subsidies to green tech" would have been to say that since we ignored alternative energy since the oil embargo of 1973 and crisis again in the early 80's, we had a lot of catching up to do. The fact we need to do something and big is only lost on fools at this point.

  94. The American people picked the real 'loser’ on Tuesday, November 6.

  95. Tesla could've been worldwide by now if it had started with the creator of the idea of an electric car company in 2002. He asked for $1.5 million to get started and the invester liked the idea and started the company without him.

  96. Romney is the loser and this pig-headed attitude against the environment is why I cannot vote Republican even if I do agree with most of their conservative values. But as long as they kowtow to their fossil fuel patrons and refuse to recognize reality when it stares them in the face, this GOP will never rise again.

  97. Musk should take the company to China, build millions of them there and export them to the US. Americans are too backwards to see the future. I'm surprised we aren't still manufacturing covered wagons.

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