TMC is an independent, primarily volunteer organization that relies on ad revenue to cover its operating costs. Please consider whitelisting TMC on your ad blocker and becoming a Supporting Member. For more info: Support TMC

Tesla, the "first" new US car company

Discussion in 'Tesla, Inc.' started by vfx, May 19, 2007.

  1. vfx

    vfx Well-Known Member

    Aug 18, 2006
    CA CA
    It almost seems to be a distraction to say that Tesla Motors is the first US car company to come along in 50 years. (Not sure what US company started in 1957)
    In the future it will be a powerful statement to say they were able to succeed where the likes of De Lorean and Tucker were not. Now much of the Auto media portrays them as a “David VS Goliath” show the uphill road they have in front of them.

    Using clips from Wikapedia I attempted to discern when some of the now-established worldwide automobile manufactures began selling cars in the US. A few had autos selling here for awhile rebranded by US makers but I was looking for the “name” introduction as much as the cars.
    Interesting that most had limited city releases like Tesla is doing.

    This is far from comprehensive and certainly it is in no particular order.

    Kia 1994
    The first Kia-branded vehicles in the United States were sold from four dealerships in Portland, Oregon in February 1994. Since then, Kia expanded methodically one region at a time. Dealers in 1994 sold the Sephia, and a few years later the United States line expanded with the addition of the Sportage.
    Hyundai 1986
    In 1986, Hyundai began to sell cars in the United States, and the Excel was nominated "Best Product #10" by Fortune magazine, largely because of its affordability. The company began to produce models with its own technology in 1988, beginning with the midsize Sonata.
    Suzuki 1984
    1984 - Suzuki New Zealand Ltd. established in Wanganui, New Zealand and began export of Chevrolet Sprint to the United States.
    1985 - SUZUKI of AMERICA AUTOMOTIVE CORP. established with the introduction of the Samurai

    Mitsubishi 1982

    In 1982, the Mitsubishi brand was introduced to the American market for the first time. The Tredia sedan, and the Cordia and Starion coupés, were initially sold through 70 dealers in 22 states, with an allocation of 30,000 vehicles between them.

    Mazda 1960
    Founded CA, 1960 Toyo Kogyo entered the full United States market, outside of California and Hawaii, in 1970 with a single car, the RX-2.
    Isuzu 1981
    1981 - Isuzu-branded consumer and commercial vehicles are successfully exported to the United States. The Isuzu Pup is the first model sold to consumers.
    SAAB ?

    There are so many large companies that have gone away in the US.
    Daihatsu 1988 – Daihatsu USA launched with the Charade and Rocky 1992 – Daihatsu USA shuts down in February. Then there is Citroën, Fiat/Autobianchi, etc.
  2. AGR

    AGR Member

    Jun 21, 2007
    Is Tesla actually building the Roadster or converting to electric power an existing vehicle already sold in the market?
  3. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

    Aug 20, 2006
    It sorta depends on who you talk to and how you look at it.
    Certainly the roadster is BASED upon the Lotus Elise design. But so much is new and different that Tesla really wants everyone to think of it as something brand new. Lotus is still involved including with ongoing chassis production.

    Now, Whitestar (Tesla's 2nd model) is expected to be 100% Tesla... (Well, they will contract out parts manufacturing, and perhaps some of the design work, but they plan to have their own factory build the vehicle).


    vfx, all those brands you mentioned earlier are all (as far as I know) Asian. That includes Daihatsu and Isuzu.
    Another thing to keep in mind is that they were *all* established large companies.
    Making cars was really just a spinoff of other things they were already doing.
    For instance Suzuki (Japan) was already known for motorcycles.
    Mitsubishi (Japan) already made pretty much everything except cars. They made car parts for other companies before deciding to "roll their own".
    Hyundai (Korea) was another industrial giant making raw materials and heavy equipment.

    Saab (Sweden I think) is the only non Asian company in your list, and they were already a huge aircraft company before getting into cars.

    There have been some very small US companies that produce low volume cars. Many have started out as after market tuning shops that finally started to make a whole new vehicle.
    Among them are ones like Saleen, Callaway, Shelby, DeLorean, Avanti, Bricklin (Canada), Morgan, Mosler, Panoz, etc.

    Then there are small startups in Europe like Pagani, Koenigsegg, Brabus, Gemballa, TechArt, Koenig, Alpina, Ascari, Brabus, Mega, Dare, Detomaso, Gemballa, Gumpert, Hamann, Hartge, Jiotto, Lister, Noble, Qvale, Renntech, Rinspeed, Ruf, Sbarro, Spectre, Spyker, Trident, TVR, Ultima, Venturi, Westfield, etc.
  4. WarpedOne

    WarpedOne Supreme Premier

    Aug 17, 2006
    Slovenia, Europe
    Tesla Roadster and Lotus Elise share:
    - windscreen
    - door mirors
    - tyres

    and Lotus production line.
  5. vfx

    vfx Well-Known Member

    Aug 18, 2006
    CA CA
    So I guess what I am fishing for here is, what IS the last successful new car company selling here in the US.

    Since Tesla want to sell 2000 Roadsters, 10 to 20,000 Whitestars and 100,000 Bluestars that would make them a major car company so we can exclude the boutique makers like Saleen (US) and TVR (UK). That would also eliminate medium makers like Ferrari and Lotus.

    With these kind of numbers, who compares? Who is the last major car company to enter the market and is still selling to set up shop here in America (Hyundai?) and who id the last home grown manafacturer to still be selling here?
  6. tonybelding

    tonybelding Active Member

    Aug 17, 2006
    Hamilton, Texas
    I'm having a hard time finding any reasonably successful startup automaker in the USA after WW1.

    Obviously there are a lot of foreign makes that have come into the US market since then. That's just not quite the same thing as being a startup company, though.

    There have been some new brands formed from mergers, like the merger of Nash-Kelvinator and Hudson in 1954 to form AMC, but those companies both had histories going way back. There have also been some new divisions formed by established automakers, like Saturn which was formed as a division of GM.

    There's the example of AM General, which was already producing buses, heavy trucks and military jeeps, then the HMWWV and its civilian spinoff, the Hummer, allowed them entry into the "car" market (if you can call the Hummer a car). But AM General is a corporate descendent of both AMC and Willys-Overland, so it wasn't a startup company at all.

    None of these companies were really trying to do anything like what Tesla is doing. The only ones I can think of that tried -- and famously failed -- in the USA were Tucker and De Lorean.
  7. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

    Aug 20, 2006
    The thing about DeLorean and Tucker are that their motivations seemed similar.
    They both wanted to produce desirable street cars using technology that was a bit different from the norm. They felt that they had a better way and they had a stubborn determination to do it in spite of the daunting competition.

    Many of the other US car company startups came from a different angle.
    One common theme is guys that build race cars who learned all they needed to build a model of their own.
    These include ones like Saleen, Callaway, Mosler, & Panoz
    Those companies don't seem interested in ever getting into mass production. They want to build limited numbers of pseudo-race cars.

    Now Tesla is a bit more like Tucker in that they came into this with no auto industry background, and a desire to change the industry.
    Companies like DeLorean and Shelby were started by seasoned auto industry execs.

    In a way Tesla is what AC propulsion should have been. Tesla saw the value with what they were doing but has a more broad vision of how to give the vehicles more universal appeal, and get to the goal much quicker than the snails pace coming from ACP. Tesla tells a story of vehicles with the best attributes from many perspectives.

    Now if we are going to talk about new(ish) car companies that have been successful in the USA... I would look most closely at Kia and Hyundai.
    In the way that Japanese companies have taken over a huge part of the world market, the Korean car companies are hot on the heels of the big Japanese companies.
    You can see the Kia story here:
    "On October 20, 2006, Kia Motors America formally hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for its first US assembly plant in West Point, Georgia,
    at an initial cost of over $1 billion."
    "Starting in 1986, in partnership with Ford, Kia produced several Mazda derived vehicles for both domestic sales in Korea and imports into other countries. "
    (This manufacturing deal gave them the opportunity to learn from the inside how the big companies operate... Ford helped train them to be their competition...)
    "In 1992, Kia Motors America was incorporated in the United States. The first Kia-branded vehicles in the United States were sold from four dealerships in Portland, Oregon in February 1994. Since then, Kia expanded methodically one region at a time. Dealers in 1994 sold the Sephia, and a few years later the United States line expanded with the addition of the Sportage."
    "However, Kia's bankruptcy in 1997, part of the Asian financial crisis, resulted in the company being acquired in 1998 by South Korean rival Hyundai Motor Company, outbidding Ford Motor Company which had owned an interest in Kia Motors since 1986."
    "Kia is one of the most improved brands in the J.D. Power and Associates Vehicle Dependability Study."
    "Since the start of 21st century, the company has started to recover and grow again - success came from the European market and today, Kia is Europe's and particularly the UK's fastest growing car company."


    Running a car company is a complicated business. Tesla doesn't exactly have a track record in this area.
    If they are able to pull it off and realize their full vision it will be remarkable.

Share This Page

  • About Us

    Formed in 2006, Tesla Motors Club (TMC) was the first independent online Tesla community. Today it remains the largest and most dynamic community of Tesla enthusiasts. Learn more.
  • Do you value your experience at TMC? Consider becoming a Supporting Member of Tesla Motors Club. As a thank you for your contribution, you'll get nearly no ads in the Community and Groups sections. Additional perks are available depending on the level of contribution. Please visit the Account Upgrades page for more details.