Tesla Motors was founded in July 2003 by engineers Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning. The company's name is a tribute to inventor and electrical engineer Nikola Tesla. The next three employees were Ian Wright, Elon Musk, and J. B. Straubel, all of whom are retroactively allowed to call themselves co-founders of the company. Musk, who formerly served as chairman and is the current CEO, said that he envisioned Tesla Motors as a technology company and independent automaker, aimed at eventually offering electric cars at prices affordable to the average consumer. In February 2017, Tesla Motors shortened its name to Tesla.
Musk took an active role within the company and oversaw Roadster product design at a detailed level, but was not deeply involved in day-to-day business operations. Eberhard acknowledged that Musk was the person who insisted from the beginning on a carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer body and that Musk led design of components ranging from the power electronics module to the headlamps and other styling. Musk received the Global Green 2006 product design award for his design of the Tesla Roadster, presented by Mikhail Gorbachev, and he also received the 2007 Index Design award for his design of the Tesla Roadster.
From the beginning, Musk consistently maintained that Tesla's long-term strategic goal was to create affordable mass market electric vehicles.
Tesla's goal was to start with a premium sports car aimed at early adopters and then moving into more mainstream vehicles, including sedans and affordable compacts.