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A year after its founder Elon Musk was named the business world’s number-one “disrupter” by Vanity Fair magazine, American upstart Tesla Motors has been decalred the world’s most innovative company.

Topping the list, which is published annually by business magazine Forbes, has also given Tesla the auspicious honour of being the first carmaker to do so.

Tesla displaced cloud-computing giant Salesforce to become number one, on a list led largely by pharmaceuticals and technology companies. In fact, to the average punter, the most recognisable brands inside the top 10 are Amazon and Under Armour – ranked ninth and 10th respectively.

The Innovative Companies list is based on a review not only of each company’s product, but also a brand and financial analysis conducted in partnership with industry specialists.

Interestingly, Forbes notes that Tesla’s promotion to the head of the list is thanks, in part, to this being “the first year we’ve had enough financial data to consider the company”.

More: Tesla triples Q1 loss, but gains in other key areas

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The magazine also praised Tesla’s pace and focus on electric power, with the company essentially taking a punt at its founding in 2003 that consumers would soon be ready not only for an all-electric automotive brand, but one that targets a well established premium-car market.

That strategy, the magazine claims, has made Tesla “difficult to imitate rapidly”.

Rivals to the Tesla model are slowly beginning to appear, with BMW and Audi now heavily focused on the electric and plug-in hybrid markets. BMW has launched its i3 and i8 models, and Audi has confirmed plans for a Model X-rivalling electric SUV.

Tesla, like technology giant Apple in years past, has been able to “go after the most discriminating and least price-sensitive buyers” before spreading to the mainstream – which is where the smaller Model 3 range, due in 2016, will come in.

Sized more in line with BMW’s 3 Series and other mid-sizers, the Model 3 promises to be a far more affordable proposition, potentially even undercutting – in the US – the small new Chevrolet Bolt that will launch next year.

More: Tesla Model 3 to beat Chevy Bolt on price

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The report adds that Tesla “has rewritten many of the rules hardened within the century-old auto business. Operating at high speed and under continuous uncertainty has become something of a thing for Tesla and its billionaire CEO, Elon Musk”.

Crucially, for any company able to top a list such as this, Musk and his band of electricity engineers are credited with kickstarting a broader and more focused interest in electric vehicles.

“When we came along and made the Roadster, it got GM to make the Volt and then Nissan felt confident enough to go with the Leaf,” Musk told Forbes.

“We basically got the whole ball rolling with electrification of cars. The ball is rolling slowly, but it is rolling.”

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