Tesla, the world-famous manufacturer of electric automobiles, has built an extraordinarily loyal fan base over the years.

But do you know what sparked the company founders in the first place?

Earlier today, Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed the epic story behind everyone's favorite electric car maker.

And he did so in just five tweets.

Few people know that we started Tesla when GM forcibly recalled all electric cars from customers in 2003 & then crushed them in a junkyard

They [sic] was done against the will of their owners, who held a candlelight vigil all night to protest the death of their cars

Since big car companies were killing their EV programs, the only chance was to create an EV company, even tho it was almost certain to fail

Nothing to do w govt incentives or making money. Thought 90% prob of losing it all (almost did many times), but it was the only chance.

Long way to go, but we've convinced most of the auto industry to start EV programs & gave them all our patents to help, so that's something

Wow.

A 2005 article in The Washington Post reported on the actions of GM, which were referenced by Musk:

Some 800 drivers once leased EV1s, mostly in California. After the last lease ran out in August, GM reclaimed every one of the cars, donating a few to universities and car museums but crushing many of the rest.

Enthusiasts discovered a stash of about 77 surviving EV1s behind a GM training center in Burbank and last month decided to take a stand. Mobilized through Internet sites and word of mouth, nearly 100 people pledged $24,000 each for a chance to buy the cars from GM. On Feb. 16 the group set up a street-side outpost of folding chairs that they have staffed ever since in rotating shifts, through long nights and torrential rains, trying to draw attention to their cause.

GM didn't budge, claiming there was no market for the technology.

"There is an extremely passionate, enthusiastic and loyal following for this particular vehicle," said GM spokesman Dave Barthmuss. "There simply weren't enough of them at any given time to make a viable business proposition for GM to pursue long-term."

And so, Tesla was born.

For years, the major auto manufacturers continued to refuse to take the electric vehicle market seriously. But then, with new vehicle production continuing to expand across the globe and the carbon crisis worsening by the second, Musk and Tesla did something amazing.

They made much of their patented technology available for others to use--even their competitors.

This might seem crazy, but Musk knew that Tesla would make too small a dent in the fight against carbon emissions all by itself. "Our true competition is not the small trickle of non-Tesla electric cars being produced, but rather the enormous flood of gasoline cars pouring out of the world's factories every day," wrote Musk in a 2014 blog post.

"We believe that Tesla, other companies making electric cars, and the world would all benefit from a common, rapidly-evolving technology platform."

A few years later, Tesla's success has motivated those competitors to develop their own electric vehicle programs.

Incidentally, earlier this year, what was once known as a fledgling new electric car company that probably wouldn't make it overtook GM to become America's most valuable automaker.

All because a few people saw what the executives of those larger competitors could not.

The future.

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Published on: Jun 9, 2017