IF COMFORTABLY outpacing your rivals is the main measure of automotive achievement, Tesla’s electric car is a resounding success. The Model S last year outsold its nearest luxury rival, Mercedes’s petrol-engined S-class, by 30% in America. And in its top specification the Tesla will also beat the German car in the race from 0-60mph. As a battery-maker Tesla is also moving fast. This week it announced plans to build a “gigafactory” in America to make lithium-ion power-packs, that it hopes will propel its vehicles to the mainstream.
Tesla’s acceleration has been rapid. Launched a decade ago by Elon Musk (pictured), a founder of PayPal and serial tech entrepreneur, last year it sold around 22,000 cars and by the end of 2014 hopes to be making 1,000 a week. In early 2015 Tesla will add the Model X, a medium-sized SUV, to its range. However, Tesla’s impressive growth has not yet translated into significant profits. A series of battery fires also briefly dented sales growth last year.