AUTOSHOW-Tesla 'aspires' to IPO, no comment on timing

DETROIT Tue Jan 12, 2010 7:00pm EST

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DETROIT Jan 12 (Reuters) - Electric sports car maker Tesla Motors "aspires" to sell stock through an initial public offering of stock but cannot comment on timing, the company's co-founder and chief executive said on Tuesday.

"With any kind of IPO, you're not allowed to comment on timing or what might happen," Elon Musk told Reuters Insider in an interview on the sidelines of the Detroit auto show.

"There are lots of companies that aspire to an IPO. It's sort of like a coming out event and Tesla's one of those companies," he said. "We've long aspired to an IPO as a milestone of maturation."

Musk was in Detroit to show off a prototype of Tesla's upcoming Model S, a battery-powered luxury sedan with seating for five and an electric-only range of up to 300 miles that the company expects to launch in 2012.

The comments by Musk on a Tesla IPO represented a more guarded tone than he has taken in the past. In both 2008 and 2009, he had predicted that an IPO by the California-based start-up could come within a year.

Two people with knowledge of the preparations told Reuters in late November that Tesla had begun readying an initial public offering of stock.

An IPO filing from the six-year-old start-up, best known for its $109,000 all-electric Roadster, would mark the first public offering from a U.S. automaker since Henry Ford's Ford Motor Co debuted its shares in 1956.

Analysts have said an IPO by Tesla would also underscore the growing investor and industry expectations for electric car technology over the past several years.

The Roadster, which is built on a Lotus frame, can go from zero to 60 miles an hour in less than four seconds, making it faster than a Porsche 911 or a Ferrari Spider.

Tesla has been granted $465 million in low-cost loans by the U.S. Department of Energy to help build the new Model S in California.

Musk said that Tesla was targeting production of up to 20,000 Model S sedans per year when its new factory is fully functional.

"Whenever we go public -- if we go public -- it's just a milestone and we have a lot to do beyond that," said Musk.

Tesla's investors include individual investors including Musk and Google Inc (GOOG.O) founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

Other investors include Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Daimler AG; Abu Dhabi-based Aabar Investments, which owns a stake in Daimler; and funds Valor Equity Partners, Technology Partners, The Westly Group and Compass Venture Partners. (Editing by Carol Bishopric)

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