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Will Tesla Motors Inc Become Tesla Inc?

By Daniel Sparks - Feb 22, 2016 at 3:20PM

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The growing importance of Tesla Energy and the company's recent acquisition of the Tesla.com domain may lead to a new corporate name.

Former Apple (AAPL 1.30%) CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs seemed to know the iPhone would be transformational to the company's future before the company sold a single smartphone. On January 9, 2007, the company dropped Computer from its name and became, simply, Apple. On the same day, Apple introduced iPhone. Likewise, could Tesla Motors (TSLA -1.79%) soon drop Motors from its name in a move to show the world just how seriously the company is taking its foray into energy storage?

Rendering of Tesla Powerwall. Image source: Tesla Motors.

Tesla Motors acquires Tesla.com
"Just wanted to thank Stu G for tesla.com," said Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Saturday on Twitter. "Know it meant a lot to you. Will take good care."

The tweet followed reports around the web that Tesla.com was now redirecting traffic to TeslaMotors.com. Until now, Tesla.com was owned by Stu Grossman, an engineer and Nikola Tesla fan who has had the rights to the name since 1992, according to Bloomberg.

After successfully acquiring Tesla.com, it wouldn't be surprising if Musk is planning a name change to Tesla. Musk even said during a question-and-answer session with press at the company's Tesla Energy event last year that, if it weren't for domain challenges, the CEO would consider changing the company's name to reflect its broader scope of operations with the introduction of its Powerwall and Powerpack energy-storage solutions under the Tesla Energy brand.

A strategic shift
Apple's Jobs justified dropping Computer from its name in 2007 with a quote from hall-of-fame NHL hockey player Wayne Gretzky: "I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been."

While Apple was already seeing success outside of computers with iPod when it changed its name, iPhones alone would have justified the name change. In Apple's most-recent quarter, iPhones represented a whopping 68% of the company's revenue.  Similarly, a name change for Tesla could reflect the company's growing emphasis of the inclusion of energy products as a core segment.

Tesla's acquisition of Tesla.com notably follows a big deal for Tesla Energy to supply batteries for electric utility Kauai Island Utility Cooperative in conjunction with SolarCity's panels. The deal, which may be the biggest utility-scale storage project in North America in history, signals Tesla's confidence in its production ramp of energy products at its Gigafactory in Nevada.

Rendering of Tesla Powerpacks. Image source: Tesla Motors.

Tesla has said that the company believes energy storage will eventually represent a third of the Gigafactory's production -- no small sum considering the Gigafactory is targeting cell production by 2020 that exceeds the world's total lithium-ion cell production in 2013. And progress in Tesla Energy is already underway. In the company's most-recent shareholder letter, Tesla said the segment already has positive gross margins, and that it expects it to contribute cash to the company's business "even with rapid growth." 

While a name change to Tesla wouldn't be a magic pill for helping the company broaden its operations and grow its energy business, it would signal just how seriously it is taking Tesla Energy.

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