The White House granted General Motors and Chrysler a reprieve Friday when it authorized $17.4 billion in emergency loans. President Bush said the alternative – the collapse of two American icons – was “not a responsible course of action.”
It’s impossible to say whether loans from the Treasury Department’s $700 billion financial stabilization fund will revive Detroit. No one knows whether Chrysler – which paid off its 1979 bailout loan and handed a nice profit to the federal government – can return from the brink again.
But the administration and Congress clearly charted a “responsible course” in preserving the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program. The $25 billion ATVM provides new and established automakers and suppliers with incentives so they may build fuel-efficient vehicles and get them to customers faster. It could also become a cornerstone of job creation for future generations: U.S. manufacturing in the 21st century is likely to be based alternative-fuel, advanced technology vehicles that reduce our carbon footprint and reliance on foreign oil.
Tesla Motors has applied for about $400 million in low-interest loans to support two future projects. One would help finance a manufacturing facility to make an all-electric, zero-emission five-passenger family sedan – the precursor to a $30,000 all-electric, zero-emission subcompact. The second loan would help finance an advanced battery and powertrain manufacturing facility to supply Tesla’s EV powertrain to other automakers, both domestic and foreign.
The Tesla Roadster gets 244 miles at a cost of roughly $4 per charge, liberating drivers from petro-state dictators, OPEC-mandated price fluctuations and Big Oil oligopoly. It’s the only highway-capable, all-electric, zero-emission production car for sale today. Given such disruptive technology, it’s easy to understand why Tesla is – no pun intended – a lightning rod for debate. Some pundits say Tesla is somehow at odds with the rest of the industry.
In fact, the opposite is true. Tesla, which is already selling powertrains for use in other automakers’ vehicles, has a deeply vested interest in a robust economy and proliferation of viable automakers. If any manufacturer in Detroit, Tokyo or Stuttgart ceases operations, Tesla could lose a potential partner.
Last week, Tesla delivered its 100th vehicle -- a humble but symbolic milestone confirming Tesla as the newest member of the global auto sector. Tesla profits from a dynamic industry – and I hope the bailout provides a catalyst for positive change in Detroit. Thanks to the ATVM, I also look forward to a profusion of fuel-efficient technology -- breakthroughs that will ultimately benefit corporations, consumers and the earth.