Last week, the founder of the highly successful electric car company Tesla Motors was posing with government officials in Norway. This week comes news that Tesla Motors’ unpaid bills in Norway have exceeded NOK 2 million (USD 249,000), and that it’s been saddled with a very poor credit rating.
The Norwegian automobile news website Bilnytt.no reports that Tesla has been hit with 240 payment demands from creditors owed money by the popular carmaker in Norway alone. So great is the number of claims that credit rating agency Bisnode has branded Tesla Motors Norway with its worst credit rating (C), and warns suppliers against extending credit to the company.
The most recent claims over unpaid bills arrived on the same day that Tesla founder Elon Musk was thanking Norway at a transport conference in Oslo, and describing Norway as one of its most important markets. He gave the country credit for enabling large-scale electric car production, through its financial and tax incentives that have prompted Norwegians to spend NOK 7 billion on Tesla cars alone over the past few years.
Now Tesla is the one with credit problems, facing claims from utility companies, employment agencies and other firms in addition to those from road toll collectors that electric car owners can generally contest because the vehicles are mostly tax-exempt. Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported that even if toll claims are removed from Tesla’s pile of unpaid bills, the amount it owes is substantial and much higher than that owed by other car dealers in Norway.
DN noted that Tesla also ran into bill payment problems in 2013, two years after it first started doing business in Norway. At that time, Tesla faced 12 payment claims totalling NOK 170,000, and blamed the problem on its rapid growth and a system in which all bills in Norway had to be paid through its office in England. That took time.
Asked what the problem is now, Tesla’s spokesman in Norway said he was unaware of the company’s history of payment problems. “What I can say, is that there have been some challenges in connection with the system that takes care of suppliers,” Even Sandvold Roland, communications chief for Tesla Motors Norway, told DN, adding that “payments have been moved,” apparently to another system.
As for the company’s reaction to its poor credit rating, Roland told DN that “we understand that delayed payments are inconvenient for our suppliers, but we will resolve this as soon as possible.”
DN reported that Tesla Motors Norway generated revenues of NOK 2.5 billion in Norway in 2014, and logged an annual profit of NOK 12.8 million after selling around 4,000 of its cars, mostly the popular Tesla Model S. In 2015, Tesla sold around the same number of cars, but its accounts for the year have not yet been made publicly available.