Note to Romney: Tesla is not Solyndra

The ghost of Solyndra could not escape a mention in the first Presidential debate on Wednesday night — Mitt Romney yet again used Solyndra as an example of inappropriate subsidies from the Obama administration for clean energy. But Romney also called out another more surprising cleantech company: electric car maker Tesla (s TSLA).

Customer rides of the Model S Beta

Romney lumped Tesla in with Solyndra, Fisker Automotive and Ener1 as examples of misplaced spending. It’s true that Solyndra and Ener1 went bankrupt, and Fisker Automotive has clearly been struggling. But Tesla in general has been a success story of the stimulus, and is producing a widely praised electric car in Fremont, Calif, at the rate of 100 vehicles a week (for the last week of September). (To clarify, Tesla’s loan was from the Advanced Vehicle Manufacturing Program, not The Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) that bailed out the auto industry).

In addition, Tesla has been paying back its loan, it created jobs in California, and it’s helping customers move off of oil for transportation. The company had a successful IPO back in 2010, and its stock has been trading surprisingly high for months, if not years.

Yes, Tesla made an announcement last week that it is about four to five weeks behind production schedule for its Model S electric sedan, and that meant the company had to cut its annual revenue guidance. But Tesla is still largely on track, and I believe it is a game changer in the industry. At an event a few weeks ago Tesla investor Nancy Pfund, a partner with DBL Investors, said she thought Tesla would emerge as one of the defining success stories of Obama’s stimulus. If Tesla continues on its current path, I would agree.

Tesla is certainly not Solyndra.