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Tesla's gigafactory, bonds and other plans revealed

Elon Musk's Tesla Motors has made tracks in the automobile industry, both for its high-end cars and plans to build a battery plant and  control one of the most important parts of producing electric cars.

Paul Sakuma/AP/File
Tesla CEO Elon Musk walks past the Tesla Model S after a news conference at the Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif. His company is developing a $5 billion plan to produce the lithium-ion batteries needed to power Tesla vehicles.

Tesla is a company on the move. While 2013 was an up and down year for the company--rave reviews and strong sales mixed with fire incidents and rapped knuckles from the NHTSA over Tesla Motors' [NSDQ:TSLA] reporting of safety scores--the next few years will bring a new factory, new models and a new securities offering to help it fund the development of new vehicles.

Tesla has just announced the offering of $1.6 billion in convertible notes--bonds that can be converted into a specified number of shares in Tesla. Additional $120 million offerings will raise the potential offering size to $1.84 billion--money Tesla will use to fund the development and production of what it calls its "Gen III" mass-market vehicle, a more affordable electric vehicle following the Tesla Model S and the upcoming Model X crossover.

The Model S has now been on sale for over a year and a half, the first models reaching customers in June 2012. Since then the company has sold over 25,000 units, and is set to follow up the electric sedan with the Model X crossover within a year. All-wheel drive and unique "falcon wing" doors will be standard, while performance and range may not be far removed from the Model S. The "Gen III" model will sit on an entirely new platform when it follows a few years later, and while the touted 200-mile range won't match that of its larger brethren, an expected $40,000 price tag is sure to make a dent in the market for more affordable electric vehicles.

There's little mystery over where components for the new model may be build, though. Tesla expects to outgrow its current Fremont facility in future, and has recently announced plans for a "Giga factory" to produce battery packs for its future vehicles. At the moment, the EV-maker buys in packs from Panasonic, but growing sales for its "Gen II" Model S and Model X vehicles and predicted growth from the cheaper sedan has prompted Tesla to investigate in-house battery production. The end goal is to accelerate the pace of production, but also to save money on producing the packs.

And of course, there's Tesla's planned move into the Chinese market, and potentially another factory there to dodge local import taxes. China might be taking a while to come around to electric vehicles, but if there's any vehicle that can turn them around it's the high-performance, long-range Model S. Crack China, and Tesla's future plans look rosy indeed.


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