Will The Modified Saleen Tesla Model S Ever Be Built?


This summer famous Mustang tuner Steve Saleen unveiled his latest creation, a car he calls the Saleen FourSixteen, which is based on the Tesla Model S. Since then Tesla has unveiled its own vision of a supercar Model S, but it’s come to light that Saleen is on seriously shaky financial ground. Will the FourSixteen ever be built?

At the end of September, Saleen just just $7,261 of cash on hand, down from nearly $1.5 million in March. The company’s own six-month financial report says that Saleen’s “…ability to continue as a going concern is dependent upon our ability to raise additional capital and to ultimately achieve sustainable revenues and profitable operations.” Additionally, the tuner owes nearly $600,000 in unpaid payroll taxes and over $350,000 of outstanding notes in default, with another $1.1 million of debts over 90 days past due. The report notes that the efforts of collection agencies could further hinder operations

Despite all this, Saleen managed to bring in over $700,000 in new customer deposits, most of which can probably be attributed to the FourSixteen. The modified Model s has been the tuner’s only major debut this year. Priced at around $156,000, deposits are likely to be around the $25,000 mark, which would mean the tuner got between 20 and 30 orders for their modified Model S. One has to wonder if any of those customers pulled their deposits once the Dual Motor Model S debuted from Tesla itself.

Though it offers a wide range of modifications for American muscle cars, that hasn’t been enough to keep the company operating with positive cash flow. The decision to modify a Tesla Model S was a major departure for Saleen, since it was made shortly after the official debut of the 2015 Ford Mustang. Mustangs have formed the core of Saleen’s business for decades, and eventually the company expanded into the supercar game with the silly-fast S7. But with Ford’s revival of the Shelby brand and competitors like Roush appealing to a new generation of customers, muscle car business apparently dried up despite Saleen expanding its operations to cover Chevy and Mopar fans as well. The FourSixteen may very well have been Saleen’s last chance to try and make a relevant American supercar again.

Unfortunately the brief buzz of positive press hasn’t helped massage Saleen’s worsening fortunes. Steve Saleen himself is is owed over $250,000 in salary and expenses for his work between the end of March and the end of September, though the company that bears his name lists total assets of less than $1.37 million. Things are so bad that Saleen traded 1,000,000 shares of its common stock for services valued at $170,000 earlier in the year; those shares are currently worth about $30,000 give Saleen’s penny stock status. Last year its stock price peaked at 95 cents per share, though today a share is worth less than whats in the “Take A Penny/Leave A Penny” trays.

That doesn’t bode well for the fortunes of Tesla fans who hoped to put a Saleen spin on their favorite electric car. Rather than bankrupting Saleen though, the Model S may have been the best last chance for the tuner to become as culturally relevant as it once was. Unfortunately Tesla itself seemed to pull the carpet out from under Saleen with the debut of a true electric supercar, one that undercuts the less-powerful FourSixteen by some $30,000. The modified electric sedan is still scheduled to appear at the LA Auto Show, but suffice to say the wind has been taken out of Saleen’s sails.

That might be the move that seals the fate of this once-thriving Ford tuner.

Christopher DeMorro

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.