In naming Tesla to the head of the list, Forbes praised the manufacturer's Model S electric luxury sedan for its range ("a week's worth of driving on a single charge"), 0-60 mph time of under 3 seconds, wireless software updates, sleek styling and five-star government safety rating.
"Plus, it's beautiful," added Forbes.
Now in its fifth year, the annual ranking had previously been dominated by Salesforce.com, but for 2015 Tesla unseated the cloud-computing firm, dropping it to 2nd place, followed by Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and semiconductor and software company ARM Holdings.
Noting that Tesla topped the list "in the first year we've had enough financial data to consider the company," Forbes called the EV manufacturer a "disrupter," for its unique business model.
For one thing, noted Forbes, "Tesla never pursued the classic route of going after low-end, price-sensitive customers first with cheaper, inferior technology. It doesn't pursue nonconsumption, or customers who don't currently drive cars. Tesla automobiles look and drive much like other cars, use established infrastructure like roads and confine much of their product innovation to only one aspect: the power system."
Comparing Tesla to other "high-end disrupters" like Apple, Sony, Starbucks, Dyson and Garmin, Forbes noted that these companies "produce innovations that are leapfrog in nature, making them difficult to imitate rapidly. They outperform existing products on critical attributes on their debut; they sell for a premium price rather than a discount; and they target incumbents' most profitable customers, going after the most discriminating and least price-sensitive buyers before spreading to the mainstream."
Tesla's latest honor precedes the launch of the 2016 Tesla Model X midsize electric SUV in the third quarter.
The Model 3, a lower-priced electric car, is scheduled to be revealed next year.
Concluded Forbes: 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."
Edmunds says: With its place at the top of the Forbes list, Tesla has set a high innovation bar for other automakers.