Elon Musk: Tesla started because big car companies ‘killed’ electric car

Elon Musk has some fighting words for the oft-repeated knock on Tesla taking advantage of government subsidies.

Naturally, he’s getting feisty on Twitter, in a mini-tweetstorm very early Friday morning.

Musk is striking back at accusations — it’s unclear who’s doing the accusing this time around — that Tesla is in business purely for the money or to fleece the government — he breaks out this defense from time to time. Tesla was born when GM killed its first electric vehicle, he tweeted at around 3 a.m. He added that he didn’t think Tesla would make money (it has never made an annual profit) or survive (so far, so good).

Musk has expressed similar sentiments before: In 2014, he appeared on the TV show “60 Minutes” and said he didn’t think Tesla would be successful.

Now, even though Tesla has posted a quarterly profit only a couple of times — most recently in October 2016 — its shares have been trading at record highs recently. In April, the Palo Alt0 company surpassed Ford in market value; today Tesla briefly passed up BMW to become the fourth most valuable of all car makers.

As for the pesky topic of government subsidies for clean technology, Musk has addressed it before, most notably after a critical Los Angeles Times article in 2015 that said he had built his empire on the back of the U.S. government. At the time, Musk said the article didn’t provide enough context, and made sure to point out that the oil and gas industry also receive plenty of government incentives. (Now, environmental programs are in danger under Donald Trump’s administration.)

And what about Musk’s GM reference? General Motors’ electric vehicle was called EV1. The auto maker launched the vehicle in 1997 in California as a response to this state’s zero-emissions vehicle mandate. In 2003, after California caved to pressure to roll back the mandate, GM repo’d the cars — they were leased — and, as Musk tweeted, “crushed them in a junkyard.” Some of the cars were donated to museums and educational institutions.

Here’s a screenshot of Musk’s missive, which he later followed up with a tweet urging people to watch the 2006 documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car?”

By the way, here’s a shocker. Some people called Musk out on Twitter this morning because Tesla’s origin story is a little more complicated. Musk didn’t start the company, although he saved it and is credited as a co-founder.

Musk’s tweetstorm this morning follows his taunting of short-sellers on Thursday, in which he linked to an Investopedia article about an analytics firm saying Tesla is the most shorted stock in the U.S. equity market, and how short-sellers are feeling the pain as the company’s shares continue to rise.

 

Photo: Tesla CEO Elon Musk listens to President Donald Trump during a meeting with business leaders in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., on January 23, 2017. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

 

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