Google almost bought Tesla, according to new book

Did you hear the one about a giant Silicon Valley company possibly buying Tesla?

No, we’re not talking about Apple. We’re talking Google. Elon Musk and Larry Page shook on a deal that would have sold Tesla Motors to Google in 2013, says an upcoming book titled “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future” by Ashlee Vance.

A couple of years ago, according to an excerpt from the book, the electric-car maker was on the verge of bankruptcy as it struggled to turn Model S pre-orders into sales. (Remember, Musk had already put his own millions into Tesla years before.) Tesla was looking for a lifeline, and CEO Musk turned to his friend, Google CEO Page, in March 2013. The deal that both parties discussed would have been worth $11 billion: $6 billion for the sale of the company, and $5 billion in capital for factory expansions.

But something happened while negotiations were under way. Tesla started to close Model S sales it hadn’t been able to before, and in May 2013 the company reported a quarterly profit for the first time. Shares spiked. Tesla was in the money. So we know the way that story ended: Google did not gobble up Tesla.

Apple has also been rumored as a possible buyer of Tesla, with Musk himself adding fuel to the speculation by saying last year that “we had conversations with Apple.” But Apple is reportedly working on its own electric vehicle. (Although some people have said it would be “easier” for Apple to buy Tesla instead.)

And Tesla is a long way from 2013: Its market cap is about $26 billion. While the company’s last earnings report missed expectations, it delivered more than 32,000 Model S vehicles last year. Musk has big plans and high hopes, including for the upcoming Model X crossover vehicle. And work is under way on its massive electric-battery plant in Nevada, also known as the Gigafactory.

Vance’s book is coming out May 19.


Photo: The rear of a Tesla Model S. (Dai Sugano/Mercury News)


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  • notasmidgeon

    Tesla missed its 2014 delivery projection by ten percent but didn’t bother telling anyone until 7 weeks before year end. Battery swap? Just give us the ZEV credits and don’t look too closely. NIMBY.

  • John E Strom Jr.

    I’m glad Elon Musk did not sell to Google. Good for him and I’m even happier that Tesla is doing well. I expect them to be THE dominant EV for years to come – much to the dismay of those overly-generous paragons of virtue at NADA. 🙂

    • Sean Morris

      There are some very interesting battery technologys in the works. Like the rapid charging aluminum battery. As long as Tesla doesn’t get locked down into the current one they’ll have a bright future. If remote software upgrades extend to their charging stations (not just the cars) they’ll be able to adapt. Battery powered cars remain the future. Hydrogen or fuel cells won’t work.

  • Nate Fredricksen

    The biggest reason I hope he sells has more to do with what Elon does with his time. There’s no doubt he wants to focus on SpaceX; getting rid of Tesla would let him do that, AND give him capital to play with in getting to Mars.