The auto industry is home to some of the mightiest names in business — Ford, General Motors, Cadillac.
Yet in a nationwide survey from earlier this year, a company that didn’t even exist 15 years ago was credited with making the “most loved vehicle in America.”
The car was the Model S, made by Tesla Motors.
As our recent longform investigation into the origin of Tesla reveals, the automaker was able to make a name for itself because the big guys were building cars with only one of two main abilities. But never both.
Most people in the industry thought a car could either be relentlessly powerful, like a Ford Mustang, or incredibly fuel efficient, like the Honda Prius.
When Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning founded Tesla in 2003, they wanted both.
The below graph, taken from Tesla’s original business plan, shows that the Roadster was designed to unite the strengths of both speed and efficiency.
Along the X-axis are all the super efficient, high mileage cars. Your Toyota Camrys, Honda Civics, Volkswagen Jettas, and the like cluster along that bottom line.
Then on the Y-axis there are the rides that accelerate like maniacs, with the Dodge Viper, Chevrolet Corvette, and Porsche Carreras gathering on that vertical line.
Then, far away from the rest, on the top right is a car combining high efficiency and insane acceleration. A car that would, if all the founders’ bets paid off, stand on its own: the Tesla Roadster.
So argues the original business plan.
“At one end of the spectrum, the Tesla Roadster has higher efficiency and lower total emissions than the best of the most efficient cars,” the plan reads. “At the other end of the spectrum, the Tesla Roadster accelerates at least as well as the best sports cars, but it’s six times as efficient and produces one tenth of the pollution.”
Thus the graph’s description for the Roadster: disruptive technology.
This article is drawn from “The Making Of Tesla: Invention, Betrayal, And The Birth Of The Roadster,” an original Business Insider investigative feature.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.