WASHINGTON -- Tesla Motors Inc. plans to repay its $465 million loan from the U.S. Department of Energy twice as quickly as planned, CEO Elon Musk said today.
The electric-car company, which produces the Model S sedan, has hit all of its milestones for receiving DOE financing, said Musk, who was flanked by Energy Secretary Steven Chu at an energy conference in suburban Washington, D.C.
That loan currently must be repaid within 10 years, Musk said. Tesla will "codify" a commitment with DOE to reimburse the government within five years or less, Musk added, after declaring that the loan guarantee should be "viewed as a success."
The push to free Tesla from its government debt is another sign of Musk's quest to transition the company from a money-losing startup into a profitable, established automaker. During a conference call last week, Musk told analysts that Tesla would be profitable for the first time this quarter.
More sales, losses
Tesla generated $306.3 million in revenue in the fourth quarter as deliveries of the Model S sedans jumped to 2,400, up from 250 units shipped during the three previous quarters combined. The company posted a fourth-quarter net loss of $89.9 million.
Chu, who recently said he plans to leave the Obama administration, did not comment on Musk's announcement or say whether he expected Tesla's loan to be repaid on time.
But he said he expects DOE's $5.9 billion loan guarantee to Ford Motor Co. and its $1.4 billion loan to Nissan Motor Co. to be repaid in full.
"There are others which may be at risk," Chu added.
The loans to Ford, Nissan and Tesla, as well as electric-car startup Fisker Automotive Inc., were granted in 2009 under the $25 billion Advanced Vehicle Technology Manufacturing program, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush.
The program was designed to spur investment in cleaner vehicles. Ford used a portion of the loan to upgrade a Michigan assembly plant to build more efficient models; Nissan used some of its loan to start building the Leaf electric car at an assembly plant in Tennessee.
No news fit to print
During the event today, Musk did not discuss his recent standoff with The New York Times over an article in which a reporter from the newspaper described driving a Model S as its battery ran out of power. The article was originally cast as a test of a chain of charging stations on the East Coast. Musk accused the reporter of failing to follow proper operating instructions for the sedan.
The sedan has drawn praise from other news outlets, such as Motor Trend magazine, which declared it the 2012 Car of the Year.
Consumer Reports is currently borrowing a Model S for testing. Early indications suggest that the electric car will receive high marks from the influential magazine.
"It does almost everything very, very well," Jake Fisher, the magazine's head of automotive testing, told Automotive News today. He praised the car's sporty performance, and said that it is more fuel efficient than almost any other car sold. He added: "It could be one of the best cars we've tested."