Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk took the stage at the North American International Auto Show on Tuesday.
We’ve collected all the important points from Musk’s talk and subsequent Q&A:
- His reason for attending the Detroit Auto Show: “The main reason I’m here is to talk about electric vehicles and to do what I can to encourage other automakers to accelerate their electric-vehicle programs. The need for sustainable transport is incredibly high.”
- Tesla sells in 34 countries, currently.
- Electric vehicles are important because they’re healthier for the planet: “If we can make it go electric sooner, then that will be much better for the world… The potential harm to the climate is really much, much greater than it was before. The potential harm to the environment is much much less [as result of EVs].”
- Why he launched Tesla: “There were no great electric cars.”
- Musk nearly had a nervous breakdown on the Sunday before Christmas 2008 because he and his company were in “extremely dire straits” in the beginning. “No one would take us seriously.”
- Several years ago, Charlie Munger, vice chairman of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, told Musk Tesla would fail.
- He put all of his money ($US20 million) into Tesla at the beginning of 2009 to help the company until it secured additional investment in May of that year.
- The first time Tesla got money from the government was in March 2010.
- Tesla will top 500,000 in production volume after 2020, Musk says.
- On other electric cars at the auto show: “I think that’s great. I hope to see a lot more of that.” He still thinks there’s no pattern yet and not enough progress made in the area. “It’s clearly not front and center… I would strongly recommend making significant investments in electric cars.”
- On the emission credits Tesla receives: “It’s not a special handout for Tesla. This existed decades before Tesla. To those companies I would say, hey, why don’t you make zero-emission vehicles.”
- On the company’s upcoming SUV, the Model X, to be unveiled later this year: “This car is really good. I don’t say these things lightly.”
- Elon Musk has no clue what an 8-K is.
- Musk says Tesla would be profitable if it scaled back its aggressive growth strategy. “We’ve been able to gross margins in the mid- to high 20% range,” he says. “We could make money under GAAP.”
- Before Tesla can consider franchised dealerships, Musk says the company first needs “to establish a solid base with our own stores.”
- “Texas is a very important market for us.” Musk says he believes the state should allow Tesla to sell cars directly to consumers in the same way Michael Dell could sell his computers directly.
- Tesla is doing preliminary work on the Model 3, the company’s affordable car design, but it sounds like it’s a long ways off. His price target is around $US35,000.
- Musk thinks Tesla will probably become profitable in 2020 — this is the time Musk says he is “absolutely certain” his company can reduce the cost of its batteries by 30%. The Model 3 should also be available around this time.
- On the company’s gigafactory battery plant coming to Nevada: Musk says Tesla will pay a little more than $US2 billion, Panasonic will pay a little under $US2 billion and other partners will contribute the rest. The gigafactory will drive down the costs of batteries, “guaranteed.”
- Musk was recently criticised for losing a lot of talent at his companies, to which he replied: “Every company has turnover.” He also called the initial story from The Wall Street Journal “asinine” and “completely ridiculous.”
- Tesla’s biggest focus at this moment: “Adding service centres and hiring a lot of people.”
- Musk’s advice for other Detroit automakers: Get loans much bigger than what he got for Tesla. “I think I’m quite terrible at getting government money,” he says, although he admits it helped him a lot in the company’s early days, especially in 2009.
- On his space transport company SpaceX, and whether or not he will be able to travel to Mars in his lifetime: “Absolutely… I do think it’s important that we as a species and a civilisation are on a path to become a true space race civilisation.”
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