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USA: Top picks 2012: Tesla Motors

While Toyota has blanketed the U.S. with milquetoast hybrid Priuses, and the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf are uninspiring “appliances,” Tesla Motors (TSLA -2.42%) has done something different. It has built electric cars that are thrilling to drive.

And from its headquarters in Silicon Valley, Tesla has been acting like a high-tech company. And why not, considering that co-founder and CEO Elon Musk made his fortune by selling PayPal to eBay for $1.5 billion?

Musk looms large in the story because he used much of his own money to bankroll the project, supplemented in time by money from private investors — as well as $465 million from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Last year’s IPO was just the latest chapter of financing, and possibly the last. From the beginning, Tesla’s goal has been to create and sell affordable mass-market vehicles that would reduce oil consumption. But the company hasn’t yet targeted the mass market.


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