In tonight's Presidential debate it wasn't surprising that Romney, the Republican candidate, would drag that Solyndra story out of the woodwork again. What was surprising was for him to name a list of supposedly failed green technology loans by the Obama Administration, which for some reason included Tesla. It makes one wonder how he could expect to get away with such an outrageous claim because it is so obviously wrong.
Solyndra was obviously a failed Dept of Energy loan, and has been made into an embarrassment for the Obama Administration. Additionally, Solyndra has become a tool for some pundits to tarnish other programs, for example to call something "another Solyndra". That company did crash and burn in a spectacular way. The loan program Romney named during the debate provided $16.1 billion in loan guarantees, and as of May had a default rate of about 1.7 percent, according to congressional testimony.
After mentioning Solyndra, Romney went on to name a list of other companies in an obvious attempt to amplify the supposed failures of the Obama Administration green technology strategy. This list included Ener1, Fisker and Tesla Motors, all of which are in the automotive industry.
Ener1 did go into bankruptcy in January, which might make one think it was a failure. In that case the bankruptcy was entirely understandable, because Ener1's investment in Think failed, and was done in cooperation with Ener1's investors, and Ener1 has since emerged from bankruptcy. Whether Ener1 is a failure is a matter of debate, but it did not go into outright collapse like Solyndra did.
Fisker has been having a rough year, between quality problems, and that the Dept of Energy froze the loans to Fisker, which threw a spanner wrench into Fisker's manufacturing plans in Delaware. But in May the company issued a business update saying everything was fine, and they've been able to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in financing. To top it off, even though Fisker had repeated delays in bringing the Karma plug-in hybrid luxury sedan to market, they have delivered well over a thousand cars to paying customers. This is hardly a picture of failure.
What about Tesla? Unlike the other companies just named, Tesla is firing on all cylinders. The Tesla Model S began deliveries last summer, pretty much on the mark of when expected. Along the way the company took control of a disused automobile factory for manufacturing the Model S and Tesla's future electric cars. This had the benefit that this factory, in America, remained in operation as a factory, keeping much-needed manufacturing jobs in the U.S. when so many companies are launching manufacturing operations in other countries. According to today's blog post by Elon Musk, the company has created over 3,500 well paying jobs. And, there is this collaboration between Tesla and Toyota on the second generation RAV4 EV, which features a Tesla designed drive train, and which launched almost exactly on target. The company is having so many successes one wonders just how anybody could possibly consider Tesla a failure?
We see here that of the companies Romney named in tonight's debate, at least three of them cannot be considered a failure. One of them, Tesla Motors, is having so much success that it is the opposite of a failure. It has been decades since the last successful start-up automobile company, that's how hard it is to start an automaker. That Tesla is on the verge of becoming cash flow positive is nothing short of phenomenal.