A Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA) Roadster By A Different Name

The vehicle is a Lotus Elise with carbon fiber body panels, and electric battery pack, and an AC motor from AC Propulsion. The company producing it plans to have a limited production run of this electric car before moving on to mass market electric cars. Followers of Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) may think I am describing their company but I am not. This is the description of the reborn Detroit Electric and its supercar, the SP:01.

Car competition

Reported by the tech magazine Wired, Detroit Electric is being brought back to life after shutting its doors before World War II. The magazine calls the car a “legal clone” of the Tesla Roadster and looking at the car, viewers will certainly see why. Although Tesla has ended production of the Roadster to focus on the Model S, comparing the Roadster with the SP:01 gives investors a feeling of just how similar these vehicles are.

Car Price Range Battery
2008 Tesla Roadster $89,000

$102,000 inflation adjusted

248 mi. 53 kWh
Detroit Electric SP:01 $135,000 150-160 mi. 37 kWh

While the cars are not perfect comparisons, Detroit Electric’s plan to expand into the mass market after producing its limited production supercar mimics that of Tesla’s business plan. So the question is: How much of a threat is Detroit Electric to the success of Tesla Motors?

Partners of Tesla

What has driven Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) as far as it has? While a clear vision of producing attractive electric cars is certainly part of it, most of Tesla’s success is due to the help of partnerships and the deep pockets of Tesla CEO Elon Musk. As Tesla was looking to raise more money, Toyota Motor Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:TM) stepped in with a $50 million stock purchase and an agreement to buy parts from Tesla. However this is not where the involvement with Toyota ended. The Japanese automaker sold Tesla the NUMMI factory for a only $42 million, a bargain for such a massive facility.

But Tesla had help from overseas as well. Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler AG (NASDAQOTH:DDAIF.PK) purchased a ten percent stake in Tesla and began to order parts from Tesla. While Daimler has sold much of its Tesla equity stake, the German automaker is increasing its orders of Tesla parts which will soon power an electric version of the Mercedes-Benz B Class.

Another helper of Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) has been none other than the Department of Energy which has provided Tesla a $465 million loan. Regardless of one’s political feelings about this loan, it certainly has been a help to the start-up automaker. As of now, Detroit Electric is relying on private capital but remains to be seen just how much capital will come online for the company’s use.