PALO ALTO -- At the end of a decade-long road to profitability, Tesla Motors (TSLA) and CEO Elon Musk found the reward of a record-high stock price Thursday morning, with shares rising as much as 35 percent amid praise from analysts and Consumer Reports.

Tesla stock opened Thursday morning at $70.12, a 25 percent leap from Wednesday's closing price, and moved as high as $75.77; a late dip left Tesla shares selling for $69.40 at the close, still enough to value the company at just shy of $8 billion.

Tesla's previous record price was $62.37, set Tuesday as part of a series of new highs for Tesla since Musk announced in April that the carmaker had turned its first profit, then followed that with a series of much-hyped announcements about leasing and warranties. Tesla confirmed its profitable quarter Wednesday afternoon, then received a near-perfect score from Consumer Reports, which bestowed only its second score of 99 out of a 100 on the company's Model S.

"It accelerates, handles and brakes like a sports car. It has the ride and quietness of a luxury car and is far more energy-efficient than the best hybrid cars," Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports director of automotive testing, said Thursday in a statement.

The Model S, which also won the 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year award -- a first for an electric automobile -- was the spark behind Tesla's first profitable quarter, as revenues from auto sales in the first quarter of 2013, $555.2 million, exceeded the total revenues for car sales from the past two full years for the Palo Alto company. Tesla sold nearly 5,000 of its all-electric sedans in the three-month period, with a starting price of $62,400, and reported a total net profit of $11.2 million.

The milestone follows nearly a decade of carnivorous cash consumption by Tesla: The Palo Alto company burned through more than $230 million between its inception in July 2003 and initial public offering in June 2010, when shares sold for less than a quarter of Thursday's asking price, $17. Since the IPO, developing and manufacturing the Model S -- the sequel to the more-expensive Roadster sports car that Tesla built with assistance from Lotus -- has burned even more money: Tesla has posted a net loss of more than $800 million in the past three full years combined.

"Increasing production by over 3,000 percent from Roadster to Model S was extremely difficult and many mistakes were made, but now we are starting to get the hang of things," Musk and Chief Financial Officer Deepak Ahuja wrote in a letter to shareholders Wednesday.

Analysts took note of Tesla's milestone, including Litchfield Hills research director Theo O'Neil, who had previously refused to buy into investors' enthusiasm for the company, keeping his price target far below the going rate at $38. In a Thursday email, O'Neil made a drastic change to that price target, bumping it up to $100.

"I know that looks crazy," O'Neil wrote, but he laid out his case for Tesla optimism: "Tesla is clearly taking more and more market share, the leasing opportunities are growing, it is shipping to Europe where the economics are far more compelling, it has a pipeline of new products and the Model S may be the 'perfect' car."

At least two other firms increased price targets for Tesla on Thursday, while Goldman Sachs downgraded the stock from "buy" to "neutral" as the price surpassed its six-month price target $61, according to reports.

There are questions about whether Tesla will be able to repeat the profits: The bulk of Tesla's net gain stemmed from a one-time, $10.7 million bonus for repaying a Department of Energy loan early, and the company also derives revenues from selling excess emission credits to other carmakers, a stream that is likely to decrease in the years ahead. A profit largely based on early repayment of a Department of Energy loan will still be celebrated loudly by clean-energy advocates who have seen Solyndra fail before repaying its loan and electric-car maker Fisker Automotive seemingly on the verge of a similar scenario.

Beyond just surviving, Tesla sees a bright future as its next all-electric vehicle -- the Model X, similar to a minivan or SUV -- is prepped for production in late 2014.

Staff writer Dana Hull and Mercury News archives contributed to this report. Contact Jeremy C. Owens at 408-920-5876; follow him at Twitter.com/mercbizbreak.