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Exclusive: Tesla Motors Says it Turned a Profit in July

Tesla Motors says that the introduction of its new, more expensive Roadster Sport ($128,500 vs. $109,000) has pushed it into profitability. The privately company claims that in July it had revenue of $20 million and earnings of $1 million.

Tesla definitely had a good month, but long-term profitability and expansion will depend on a broader product line and installation of charging networks. (That prospect brightened considerably with the news of the Department of Energy's $2.4 billion grant awards for batteries, cars and EV infrastructure.)

Diarmuid O'Connell, Tesla's vice president of business development, said the company has "no debt on the books," and that "every bit of revenue is being reinvested in the development of future vehicles." He said that the company is "aggressively hiring" new staff to build manufacturing capacity for the Model S, and to fulfill its contract to supply Daimler (which owns 10 percent of the company) with drivetrains for electric versions of the Smart car. He said the company is also "in discussions" other potential powertrain customers. Asked how Tesla is likely to do in 2009 as a whole, he said, "It's too early to say; we're not in the business of predicting our finances."

Tesla's Rachel Konrad says its accounting procedures do not, for instance, log deposits for the its forthcoming Model S as revenue. "Like other automakers, revenue on a car is recorded when it is delivered to the customer," she said. "All of our numbers were audited by a Big Three accounting firm (but because we are a privately held company we do not disclose which one)."

CEO Elon Musk said the company "achieved a bottom-line profitability thanks to a tremendous amount of hard work by the Tesla team." Customers, he said, "know that in buying the Roadster they are helping fund development of our mass-market electric cars."

Last month, Tesla shipped 109 cars and also announced that it was offering financing through Bank of America. The Roadster is never going to be cheap, but Tesla claims that after completing loan documents in the showroom, customers can have "lower total monthly costs than a gas-guzzling sports car with a similar sticker price."

Tesla now has design-showcase showrooms in Menlo Park and West Los Angeles in California, in New York, Seattle and London. Other stores are opening in Chicago, South Florida, Washington, D.C., Toronto, Munich and (makes sense, why not Greenwich?) Monaco.

Tesla is also basking in the June award of a $465 million low-interest loan from the Department of Energy that will be used to develop its second all-new model, the S.

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