Back in 2009, the plug-in vehicle world was surprised to learn that Daimler had invested $50 million in Tesla Motors. What we didn't know at the time was that the money came deus ex machina style just before the EV startup reaper was about to knock. Turns out, Tesla's financial situation was much worse back then than anyone realized.

AutoblogGreen recently spent an hour interviewing Tesla CEO Elon Musk, and when we asked about the money, Musk said, "The credit for saving Tesla should go to Daimler. It was the Daimler investment that saved Tesla in early 2009. ... 2007 and 2008 were especially bad for us. ... There were a couple of near-death situations."

Those near-death situations include the time Musk needed to funnel a lot of his personal capital into Tesla – "I literally had to borrow money for rent" – in order to get through 2008 and early 2009. Having run through a lot of his own money, he appreciated Daimler was investing in Tesla even though Daimler itself was cash strapped. "When someone is hungry themselves and they give you a bit of food, you've got to be grateful for that."

Musk added that Tesla's financial situation today is "pretty good," and that the company has "a couple hundred million dollars" in reserve. As long as there aren't a "bunch of screw-ups," then the automaker should be in good financial shape, he said.

Stay tuned for more from AutoblogGreen's one-on-one interview, including the full transcript, later this week.


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  • 15 Comments
      A P
      • 2 Years Ago
      Anymore morons going to come on here and claim that Daimler is all sweetness and unicorn farts? They are filthy Euro-trash-criminals and did a good job in causing the US taxpayer BILLIONS. Chrysler was on a huge roll when they were purchased....do you really think they would have need taxpayer help in the amount they did? They were considered the best run American auto company. I think we need to slap a 5K tariff on every freaking MB they import to help pay back what they STOLE.
      Love Great Danes
      • 2 Years Ago
      Sorry Tesla you will pay them back, and pay them back dearly.
      IOWNSPORTSCARS
      • 2 Years Ago
      I wouldn't brag about being saved until you have a vehicle that people can afford and we see them on the road, all you have done is delay FAILURE.
        mycommentemail
        • 2 Years Ago
        @IOWNSPORTSCARS
        Yeah! Kelly KNOWS failure! Listen to her!
        • 2 Years Ago
        @IOWNSPORTSCARS
        [blocked]
      james
      • 2 Years Ago
      Yeah, Too bad they couldn't find any money to spare for Chrysler after ruining the company. Once again, a morally and ethically challenged company walks away unscathed and is given COMPLETELY undue credit. Elon Musk should be thanking Chrysler, not the germans. Makes me want to spit at every Mercedes (and its owner) I see.
        sjmoo
        • 2 Years Ago
        @james
        Your rage would be much easier to accept if it was based even remotely in reality. Any research at all into the merger will show you that Daimler pumped way more of its own money into keeping Chrysler afloat then they received at the start of the merger. True, it was in part Daimler's poor product decisions that put Chrysler in the position it was, but that doesn't erase the fact that Chrysler turned into a black-hole for them. Also, Daimler can't be blamed for "ruining" Chrysler while giving Cerberus a pass. They certainly took it from competitive to below-par, but they were also key in some of Chrysler's high-points over the last decade: 300/Charger & Grand Cherokee. In fact, when the two companies split ways Chrysler was in better shape than it had been in years in terms of product. They had a new GC and Viper in the pipeline along with redesigns for the 300/Charger and Sebring. It was Cerberus who immediately killed all of those projects despite Daimler having already legally committed to supplying parts and platforms. People have a tendency to forget that Cerberus was who actually destroyed Chrysler, Daimler was only guilty of utter and complete incompetence. But that same incompetence also drug the MB brand through 10 of the worst years in that brand's history. They weren't immoral, Jurgen Schrempp was simply one of the worst businessmen to ever live.
          ss1591
          • 2 Years Ago
          @sjmoo
          I have never seen a post that is so wrong! MB helped it self to 13 billion in cash on hand and had Chrysler pay for all costs related to, SL500 (Viper next generation, Jeep Grand Cherokee (New ML) new v6 and 4cyl (they produced the worst of all three partners). When they sold to Cerberus a court had to force then to sell seats and steering parts needed for Jeep and 300 production and they paid twice normal costs something that they are still sueing to get back, 5 speed transmissions that had a 8 percent failure rate at time of build costing Cerberus millions. You can say Schrempp was just a fool but MB took every last dime to save themselves and left the American tax payer to pick up the costs to save Chrysler! Cerberus killed off what ever they could to keep cash on hand because their cars were sitting unsold falling apart. When you help yourself to cash on hand of 13 billion and pension money that was borrowed it is immorel because that is what saved MB.
          AngeloD
          • 2 Years Ago
          @sjmoo
          Sorry, but much of what you have written about Diamler's treatment of Chrysler is simply untrue. Diamler did not put more money into Chrysler than they took out. Diamler forced Chrysler to buy very overpriced components such as transmissions and suspension components throughout its ownership, shifted R&D costs for Mercedes models to Chrysler, took Chryslers $12 Billion reserve fund, etc. Together with Chryslers profits, this cash flow basically rescued Diamler. Diamler does not deserve credit for the LX platform (300-Charger-Challenger), that is developed prior to the takeover, oh sorry...the "merger of equals". Most of the Grande Cherokee development was done at Chrysler. The Pentastar was all Chrysler. Diamler completely retarded finish development of the 2.4L. As a result, it was a winning engine in the Hyundias and a harsh agricultural implement in the Caliber-Patriot-Compass. Cerberus did not "kill off" these development projects. Chrysler was on the verge of bankruptcy after Diamlers mismanagement. Cerberus was forced to suspend the Ram, Pentastar, Dual-Clutch Transmission, etc. because of this German brillance. You post reminds one of the typically fraudulent German crowing about their prowess at auto design. Yet their most noteworthy designs are borrowed or stolen from others: like the VW air-cooled Beetle stolen from Tatra (Czech), NSU's front wheel drive tech stolen from British Leyland (UK), and on and on. Modern German cars are ponderous, overpriced, and unreliable.
      A P
      • 2 Years Ago
      Daimler being cash strapped??? I guess they need to find another cash bloated company like Chrysler was in the 90s to steal from. There is no more evil car company than Daimler. They are stone cold gangsters.
      usa1
      • 2 Years Ago
      Wow. I'm shocked he forgot about the $465M loan from the US government in 2009. I wonder if that helped at all. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203824904577213854167645844.html
        axiomatik
        • 2 Years Ago
        @usa1
        Something tells me he didn't "forget" about it. But the Daimler investment came before the loan was approved. So, most likely, Tesla was in a bigger cash crunch at the time of the Daimler investment than they were by the time the DoE loan funds started coming in.
        A P
        • 2 Years Ago
        @usa1
        Of course this was not talked about in the article.....this was a written BJ for Daimler like most articles on AB.
      answerinmachine3
      • 2 Years Ago
      What about the shareholders that bought stock at it's public offering? I am pretty sure that they made a pretty penny off of that too...
        • 2 Years Ago
        @answerinmachine3
        [blocked]
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