10 years ago, Elon Musk took Tesla public. These days, he wants to take us to Mars
I remember the day well. One of those perfect, clear New York City mornings. It would be my first time interviewing a man we all now know has, and very likely will continue to, change the world: Elon Musk.
He was giving interviews outside of the Nasdaq stock exchange on the day of Tesla's initial public offering, June 29, 2010.
We stood in front of a shiny new fire red Tesla Model S. At the time, it was the cutting edge of automotive technology. He told me the IPO would give Tesla "a little bit of additional cushion in case the Model S takes longer than expected."
The goal was for the Model S to roll out in 2012. "We expect [it] to be a 20,000-unit a year run rate by early 2013," he told me. Tesla would go on to sell 22,477 cars in 2013 -- a marked increase from some 3,100 the year prior.
Musk's greater dream, he told me, was to be able to sell to the masses. "What I hope we are doing in five years is our mass market vehicle," he said. "From the beginning, my dream for Tesla has been to make mass market electric vehicles."
Fast forward 10 years and Tesla's Model 3, its most affordable model, now costs roughly $38,000. It now costs less to buy a Tesla, but it still remains a luxury brand.
When asked how big he envisioned Tesla becoming, he replied: "much bigger than Ferrari"... "and hopefully bigger than Porsche." Tesla, which now sells hundreds of thousands of cars a year, has achieved both.
While many may have had a sense at that time that Musk would be an enormous leader in this space, many also questioned the company's viability. What almost none of us knew at that time was how much he would attempt over the decade to come.
Like taking us earthlings to Mars.
In an interview last month, he told the New York Times' Maureen Dowd he didn't have time to design his own house because it would take his focus away from "getting people to Mars and environmental sustainability and accelerating stable energy." The comments were made just a couple months after he listed two of his own multimillion dollar Southern California mansions for sale and tweeted that he was selling off most of his possessions.
Then there are Musk's other endeavors, many of which remain very much on the drawing board including:
-- Offshore spaceports, floating launchpads for SpaceX's Starship rocket to go to the moon, Mars and to take space tourists into Earth's orbit.
--The Hyperloop, a high-speed transit system that will send pods traveling through a series of underground tunnels.
-- The Boring Company, which aims to build tunnels in Las Vegas and Los Angeles for underground transit systems -- like the Hyperloop -- and prevent nasty traffic jams above ground.
-- Neuralink implants that can connect with our brains and communicate with our smartphones.
-- SolarCity, Tesla's solar panel business.
What Musk saw -- and sees -- possible, most do not. And over the next decade, Musk would develop an unwillingness to give up.
Musk is also known for being outspoken and unfiltered, a rarity among CEOs of publicly traded companies.
He has also become a lightning rod for his comments -- both political and social. On Twitter and when speaking to investors, Musk has repeatedly questioned the threat of the coronavirus and railed against stay-at-home orders, calling them "fascist." He has even tweeted that he thinks Tesla's stock price is too high, causing the stock, and a good bit of his personal fortune, to temporarily shrink.
In 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission alleged Musk misled investors when he tweeted that he had "funding secured" to take Tesla private. The tweet cost Musk -- and Tesla -- each a hefty $20 million fine. As part of the SEC settlement, Musk also agreed to give up his position as chairman of Tesla, although he remains CEO.
Tesla just posted its first annual profit in January. Yet, at the time of this writing, Tesla is valued at more than Ford, GM and Fiat Chrysler combined. It has also overtaken Toyota as the most valuable auto maker in the world.
For short sellers who were betting that Tesla's stock would fall, Musk responded in July with a now sold out line of Tesla short shorts for $69.420 a pop.
"Relax poolside or lounge indoors year-round with our limited-edition Tesla Short Shorts," the Tesla store's web site advertised. "Enjoy exceptional comfort from the closing bell."
The tiny red satin shorts were evidently a hit. Soon after they went on sale, they had sold out. And, in typical Musk fashion, he tweeted, "Dang, we broke the website."