Like young bucks at a county fair kissing booth, states are lining up for a chance to court Tesla Motors and its planned $5-billion battery factory. But fair warning, fellas: The intoxicating fragrance of Musk and his money masks a cold business heart.
Already a loser in the race for this California girl’s affections, though, is, well, California.
Oh, sure, we’re good enough to design and build the company’s eco-luxe Model S. And Californians bought more than one-third of the $70,000-and-up cars last year. And our tough pollution-control policies sure come in handy, allowing Tesla to sell environmental credit to other automakers; those tens of millions of dollars it rakes in annually are a big source of its revenue.
But apparently that’s all yesterday’s prom news. Tesla has reportedly boiled down the list of suitors for the battery plant and its 6,500 or so jobs to Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas.
Uh, did I mention that company founder Elon Musk lives in — no, not Phoenix, not Vegas, not Albuquerque and certainly not Dallas but Bel Air?
Anyway, for those states still in the running, here’s a little advice: Be careful what you wish for. Because as a company, Tesla is like one of Hugh Hefner’s girlfriends: beautiful, but high maintenance.
Just ask the city of Downey. As my colleague Jerry Hirsch writes:
“Tesla is known for playing regions against one another to exact concessions and incentives.
“Back in 2010, Downey officials believed they had a deal for Tesla to set up shop in a closed facility once used to build the space shuttles.
“But Tesla, bolstered by a $50-million investment from Toyota Motor Corp., decided instead to build its electric cars at a plant in Fremont, Calif., that was previously operated jointly by the Japanese automaker and General Motors. Tesla paid only $42 million for the factory.
“ ‘We are shocked, upset and betrayed,’ Downey City Councilman Mario A. Guerra said at the time.”
But you weren’t alone, councilman, in getting your heart broken. As Hirsch writes:
“Tesla courted — then spurned — politicians representing two other potential plant locations before Downey.
“Tesla said in early 2007 that it would open the plant in Albuquerque, after then-New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson promised tax credits and the purchase of 100 vehicles.
“But a year and a half later, Tesla dropped those plans, announcing instead that San Jose would be the future home of car production and that it would sign a 40-year lease in exchange for 10 years of free rent and sizable tax benefits.
“Then that deal also fell through, before Tesla finally moved forward with plans to open the Fremont plant.”
Are you starting to get the picture, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas? If Paris Hilton were a company, she’d be Tesla.
Certainly, it would have been better for California to land the battery plant. Good jobs are still hard to come by here. And the governor’s office said it tried but failed to woo the company. Tesla, for its part, won’t say why it has ruled out the Golden State.
So I guess that’s that. Like the starlet she is, Tesla just shakes her hair, puts on her shades and struts off.
But all isn’t lost: After all, we still have Bel Air — and Elon Musk.
Take that, Texas.
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