The Complete Idiot's Guide to Electric Car Companies, Fox News Edition

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
April 10 2013 5:23 PM

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Electric Car Companies, Fox News Edition

Sarah Palin is only the most recent Republican to label Tesla a loser.
Tesla is a loser! Or wait, was that Fisker?

Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images

Bill O'Reilly, are you listening? Sarah Palin, this is for you, too. Lou Dobbs, gather 'round. Mitt Romney, you might as well lend an ear as well.

Will Oremus Will Oremus

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

Companies can be very confusing. All those names and numbers—whew. And to make matters worse, sometimes there are two companies that have different names, yet they are involved in the same exact industry. It's enough to make your head spin. But not to worry. I'm here to help.

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There is a company called Fisker that makes electric cars, and it is doing very poorly. Last week it laid off 75 percent of its employees, and it appears to be headed for bankruptcy. If that happens, the government might lose a lot of the money it loaned to that company a few years back as part of a program to encourage the development of alternative-energy vehicles. Again, that company is called Fisker.

But wouldn't you know it, there is a second company called Tesla that also makes electric cars. Different name, same industry. But—and this is where it gets a little complicated—Tesla is not doing very poorly. It did not lay off 75 percent of its employees. It is not behind on repayment of its loans. In fact, it is repaying them ahead of schedule. This company just celebrated its first quarterly profit, its stock has been soaring, and its latest model is the reigning Motor Trend Car of the Year. Once more, this company's name is Tesla.

Let's recap. Fisker: loser. Tesla: not a loser.

Bill, that means you can stop saying that Tesla had "$523 million in losses." Sarah, you're free to stop lumping in Fisker with "past losers like... Tesla." Lou, whatever other opinions you might hold of the Department of Energy's loan programs, you now know it's not true to say that "all they pick are losers." Mitt—well, I guess you've probably already absorbed this lesson. Sorry to belabor the point.

Anyway, once the rest of you have got this down, let me know. Maybe next we can tackle some even more challenging distinctions, like the one between solar-energy companies named Solyndra and solar-energy companies not named Solyndra.

The author would like to thank MediaMatters and The Raw Story for watching Bill O'Reilly and Lou Dobbs on a regular basis so that he doesn't have to.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

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