By Ben Klayman
DETROIT -- Electric carmaker Tesla has paid off its U.S. Department of Energy loan nine years earlier than required, using money raised last week in a stock and debt offering.
The automaker said Wednesday that it wired $451.8 million to repay the full loan with interest.
"I would like to thank the Department of Energy and the members of Congress and their staffs that worked hard to create the [Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing] program, and particularly the American taxpayer from whom these funds originate," Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA) Chief Executive Elon Musk said in a statement. "I hope we did you proud."
Republicans have criticized the Obama administration's support of new-technology companies, including struggling automaker Fisker Automotive Inc., as well as electric battery maker A123 Systems and solar panel maker Solyndra. Both A123 and Solyndra filed for bankruptcy.
DOE officials heralded the Tesla payoff in a press release.
"When you're talking about cutting-edge clean energy technologies, not every investment will succeed -- but today's repayment is the latest indication that the Energy Department's portfolio of more than 30 loans is delivering big results for the American economy while costing far less than anticipated," U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said.
Moniz said more than 90 percent of the loan loss reserve Congress established remains intact, while losses represent about 2 percent of the overall $34 billion portfolio.
DOE first offered loans to Tesla and other automakers in June 2009, when the companies could not arrange financing through public markets during the recession.
The DOE's $465 million loan, received in 2010, allowed Tesla to open its plant in Fremont, Calif., and build the Model S electric car, which recently received a near-perfect score from Consumer Reports magazine and starts at $70,000 before a federal tax credit.
The payoff was more good news for a company that reported its first quarterly profit earlier this month.
Musk, a billionaire who owns 27.5 percent of Tesla, said Monday that the company would repay the loan.
Tesla was funded privately through its first seven years after its 2003 founding, and it received the DOE loan as part of the advanced technology vehicle manufacturing program.
After making payments last year and the first quarter of this year, Tesla said it repaid the balance of its loan using a portion of the almost $1 billion raised last week in stock and notes offerings.