When is $20 million not equal to $20 million? When, for some, it's an interest payment and, for others, it's all someone else thinks they're worth. Here's how that one number means two totally different things to two different green car companies.

Speaking to Bloomberg Television about the early repayment of Tesla Motors' DOE loan, CEO Elon Musk said today that, "ultimately, the US taxpayer actually made a profit above $20 million on this loan. For this loan at least, people's tax bill actually went slightly down."

Musk said that, now that the loan has been paid back, more people might take a look at Tesla. "We were attacked a lot in certain quarters for having some government debt," he said. "I think that actually matters to some consumers out there, whether or not a company actually does have government debt, and being able to say we fully repaid that debt with interest, I think it is helpful to some number of people out there in thinking about buying a car." So, for Tesla, which recently raised over a billion dollars, $20 million is an easy price to pay to potentially sell more EVs.

Now, let's look at Fisker Automotive, which is still fending off bankruptcy. We learned this week that VL Automotive and Wanxiang made an offer to buy the troubled automaker for an undisclosed sum. Word out today is that the amount that the two companies are willing to pay for Fisker is, you guessed it, $20 million. That's about one percent of Fisker's $2 billion-plus value back when the Karma plug-in hybrid was launched, according to Reuters. It's unclear how a potential Fisker buyer will have to deal with the outstanding DOE loan amount of $171 million and other issues, but the $20-million offer a striking contrasts to Musk's statement on Bloomberg Television, which you can watch in the video below.


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