You know how fast news ricochets around the web, right?
Tesla founder Elon Musk claimed today that the company expected to receive funds from its $350 million loan application submitted to the Federal Department of Energy.
There's just one problem with the story: Tesla HAS NOT been awarded those loans.
It all started with a letter that Musk sent to fans and owners today, which was previewed to the press before it was mailed. We covered his projection of mid-year profitability for Tesla this morning. But he also claimed in the letter that "the Department of Energy informed Tesla last week that they expect to disburse funds from our $350M Model S loan application within four to five months."
And several sites picked up on various aspects of it, including our own AllCarsElectric. We decided to hold off until we could verify what seemed to be something we'd heard nowhere else.
Lo and behold, literally within minutes, Tesla spokesperson Rachel Konrad followed up her e-mail with a clarification:
I should note that we have NOT received final confirmation from the DOE that we will receive funds. However, we are in the later stages of the process, where the DOE is evaluating Tesla's financial viability and technical merits. They are doing their due diligence.
Uh HUH. The Department of Energy is currently reviewing more than 70 applications for those "Green Car" loans from suppliers and carmakers. The program was authorized in December 2007, and funded as part of the Energy Act passed last October. The DOE only began writing the rules for applications in August, and it's still unclear when awards will be made--although the new administration is said to be pushing the DOE hard to award them sooner rather than later.
So it's entirely possible that Tesla will indeed be granted some portion of the hundreds of millions it's applied for (out of a total loan pool of $25 billion). But we have to wonder how the DOE reacts to a CEO--from a startup, no less, not even an established carmaker that's built rather more than the 200-plus cars Musk quotes--who claims to have gotten an award before it's announced.
So with all due respect to Ms. Konrad (who we've always found to be pleasant and hardworking), someone needs to vet that stuff before it leaves San Carlos, folks. You're not the only one with a CEO who runs off his mouth by a long shot. But, hey, at least fact-check the printed version, hmmmm?
(For the record, AutoblogGreen and Jalopnik, among others, got the story right; we liked the story on Earth2Tech best, though GreenCarAdvisor was judicious as always.)