Tesla's history can be traced through numerous milestones. Here are the top 25 moments that shaped the electric carmaker over 16 years.

FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty ImagesTesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk introduces the newly unveiled all-electric battery-powered Tesla Cybertruck.
  • Tesla has been around for 16 years, and in that time period, CEO Elon Musk’s all-electric carmaker has established an astonishing number of milestones.
  • I rounded up the most significant 25.
  • They range from the original Roadster, which made electric cars cool, to the insane Cybertruck, plus quite a few other adventures along the way.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Tesla is 16 years old. It turns 17 in July. In the nearly two decades it’s been around, the Silicon Valley electric-car company has done what nobody in the auto industry thought was possible: create a viable new American car brand.

Along the way, it also created a market for electric vehicles, spurring major automakers to jump in and take risks.

It hasn’t been an easy road for Tesla and CEO Elon Musk. But a lot has happened during those 16 years.

In fact, Tesla has racked up an impressive number of milestones. I decided to round up the 25 most significant, from the company’s first vehicle to sending a car into orbit:

1. PayPal. Before Elon Musk was involved with Tesla, he and his partners (including Peter Thiel, pictured here). Musk took his share of the $US1.5 billion sale to PayPal in 2002 and sank it all into Tesla and SpaceX.

APPeter Thiel and Elon Musk.

2. The Original Roadster. Tesla’s first car was based on a Lotus chassis. It debuted in 2008 and proved that electric vehicles could be cool and fast. The era of the glorified golf cart was over.

Matthew DeBord/Business InsiderThe original Tesla Roadster.

3. The Tesla Factory. In 2010, Tesla bought what had been a jointly operating GM/Toyota plant, formerly known as NUMMI. Tesla picked up the plant for a bargain price of $US42 million, following GM’s 2009 bankruptcy.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

4. Deal with Toyota. In 2006, Toyota took a stake in Tesla and teamed up with the all-electric automaker to source drivetrains from the RAV4 EV crossover SUV.

ToyotaToyota RAV4 EV.

5. The Model S. Tesla first clean-sheet design hit the market in 2012. Just as the Roadster showed that the company could do fast, the Model S proved it could design, engineer, and manufacture a proper luxury sedan.

Flickr/ Maurizio PesceElon Musk stands beside a Tesla Model S.

6. The Supercharger network. Tesla’s proprietary fast-charging network is spread around North America, Europe, and China. It enables Tesla owners to road trip well beyond the range of other EVs.

Bryan Logan/Business InsiderA Tesla Model S P100D is seen parked at a Supercharger station on the SpaceX campus in Hawthorne, California.

7. The Model X is revealed. Tesla pulled the cover off its much-anticipated SUV in 2012. The “falcon wing” doors were the standout feature. But it would be three years before the Model X would officially launch.

Wikimedia CommonsThe Tesla Model X prototype debuts.

8. The D! Cryptically announced in 2015, the “D” meant “dual motor” — Tesla had added all-wheel-drive to the Model S.

Elon Musk/Tesla

The dual-motor Model S also served up “Insane Mode” — a 0-60 mph time in the Model S P85D of 3.2 seconds.

9. Ludicrous Mode later upped that, in the P90D and P100D.

Matthew DeBord/Business InsiderA Tesla Model S P90D.

10. Gigafactory 1. The sprawling Nevada battery plant opened in 2016. It’s Tesla’s second factory in the US, and battery production was a partnership between the carmaker and Panasonic.


11. Autopilot. In 2015, Tesla kicked its semi-self-driving system into a higher gear and began its march toward full-self-driving — which hasn’t yet arrived.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

12. The Model X launches. Finally, in 2015, the Model X landed. It was beset with production challenges, from the falcon wing doors to the rear seats. Musk said it had gone through “production hell” and lamented that Tesla had made the design so complicated.

APElon Musk presents the Tesla Model X.

13. Elon Musk’s speech in Paris calling for a carbon tax. In late 2015, Musk gave an important speech at the Sorbonne in Paris, demanding a price on pollution. “We have to fix the unpriced externality,” he told the audience.


14. Solar Roof. In 2016, Tesla controversially merged with SolarCity. By 2017, a new product, the Tesla Solar Roof, was being touted by Musk. By 2020, its progress would be uneven. But it still promised a new line of business for Tesla.

Screenshot via Tesla

15. The Boring Company. Frustrated with Los Angeles traffic, Musk founded the Boring Company to dig tunnels under the city’s freeways. It would eventually ink a deal with Las Vegas to develop a transit project.

The Boring Company

16. Tesla’s market capitalisation challenges Detroit. Despite building fewer than 500,000 vehicles per year, Tesla matched Ford and GM’s market caps and in 2019-20, leapt well past them, becoming the most financially valuable US carmaker.

Andy Kiersz/Business Insider

17. Trump is elected. Musk made an effort to convince the Trump administration to focus on his carbon-tax goals, but he later resigned from a presidential committee after the US pulled out of the Paris climate accord.

Evan Vucci / APElon Musk is seen standing next to President Donald Trump and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.

18. The Model 3 arrives. Production hell, part two, for Tesla’s long-awaited Model 3 mass-market sedan. The snazzy four-door rolled out in 2017, but didn’t hit full-production until 2018.

Matthew DeBord/BITesla Model 3.

19. The Tesla Semi. In 2017, Tesla staged its most rock-concert-like reveal, rolling out the Semi truck, plus something extra …

TeslaElon Musk presents the Tesla Semi.

… 20. The New Roadster! Tesla went back to its roots, but this time the Roadster would be a clean-sheet design and with an estimated 0-60 mph of 1.9 seconds, the fastest production car in the world.


21. The SpaceX Falcon Heavy launches …

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

… And sends an original Tesla Roadster toward Mars. Musk could have used any payload, but he chose his personal, red Roadster, piloted by “Starman.”

SpaceX via Getty Images

22. The Model Y launches. In 2019, Tesla added to its fleet with the Model Y, a compact crossover.

23. The Cybertruck blows minds. At the end of 2019, Tesla made good on its promise to create a pickup truck. But nobody was prepared for the stainless-steel beast, which looked like it was borrowed from the future.

FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty ImagesTesla Cybertruck.

24. Tesla China. The company built a new factory in about a year — record time for the auto industry. By 2020, Tesla was delivering vehicles to customers.

REUTERS/Yilei SunA Tesla Model 3 is seen at the company’s Gigafactory in Shanghai, China.

25. Tesla Germany. In late 2019, Tesla announced that Gigafactory 4 would be situated near Berlin. Construction began in 2020, and the factory was expected to build up to 500,000 vehicles per year.

Business Insider/Vegas von Vogelstein

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