Back in 2008, Jeremy Clarkson went on to test the Tesla Roadster “a barely running science experiment” that was not able to survive a full day at a Top Gear track. At the time, Tesla disliked the comments, of course. However, in a rather interesting note, CEO Elon Musk admitted the then new Tesla Roadster to have been a disaster.
According to Musk, the Roadster was a debacle that testifies about the rough origins of his young company (founded in 2003). The idea for the car came after they thought that they could make a good profit by licensing drivetrain technology from a startup company called AC Propulsion and packing it into a chassis provided by Lotus. As Musk now says, this was one of those things that “turned out to be staggeringly dumb.”
Then an engineering nightmare arose as the technology from AC Propulsion had to be adapted and codes had to be rewritten in order for it to fit into the Lotus design. This platform had to be adapted to fit in the AC Propulsion batteries. In the end, according to Musk, the roadster only had about six or seven percent of the technology provided by AC Propulsion and Lotus.
Because Lotus US crash testing could not be applied to the car due to modifications, expensive crash testing was needed. Tesla’s co-founder JB Straubel revealed that all the suspension and braking system had to be redesigned for the Tesla.
Redesigning all the AC Propulsion and Lotus technology proved to be ineffective to a car doomed to disgrace. At a party in 2006, some models were given to drivers to be tested. By the end of the night, these cars were destroyed, according to Straubel. Musk admitted that the car was completely unsafe, it broke down all the time, and it did not really work.
It was not until 2009 that Tesla, a company that their very co-founders gave a 10 percent chance of survival, stopped losing money to the Roadster, even after a complete overhauling.