Though Tesla didn’t have a press conference on the floor of the Detroit Auto Show, Elon Musk did come to the Motor City to speak at the Automotive News World Conference. And boy, did he have a lot to say. Musk came to Detroit both encouraged and disappointed in other automaker’s EV efforts while also admitting that Tesla was coming up against some unexpected obstacles. But that didn’t stop Musk from making some pretty bullish claims of his own, like selling “millions” of cars annually within 10 years.
For Musk, his speech in Detroit came with a small slice of humble pie as the Tesla CEO admitted he had an “issue” with punctuality, referring to the again-delayed Model X. “It’s been two steps forward, one step back,” Musk said in reference to the falcon-wing doors. “Really, it was important to me that the doors were not just a gimmick, but a fundamental improvement to the functionality of the cars.” Musk promised that the Model X would go on sale this summer, and also said that the electric SUV was indeed sold out for the entire first year of production. That said, the automaker wasn’t actively seeking any new partnerships with major automakers, and so far no company has taken up Tesla’s offers to use its patents, at least that he knows of.
Musk also had to concede that Tesla sales in China had fallen in the fourth quarter compared to expectations, with many customers concerned about a lack of available charging stations. Tesla also underestimated the issues with installing and maintaining the high-powered Superchargers, leading to a delayed rollout. However, he says that “miscommunication” has since been “corrected” and sales are already starting to improve. That’s a far cry from Musk’s bravado last year when he said China could become Tesla’s largest market.
And that bravado came out full blast yesterday when Musk went on to diss on hydrogen fuel cells, calling the technology “extremely silly” and “terrible.” He also talked on the just-revealed Chevy Bolt, expressing excitement that GM was finally getting serious about electric cars, but dissing on the $30,000 price tag, which factors in the $7,500 Federal tax rebate. Musk repeated a previous claim that the upcoming Tesla Model III will cost $35,000 before incentives.
For Musk, the Model III also represents Tesla’s future profitability, as he says it is the car that will allow the automaker to finally start making real money, and he expects to sell a lot more than earlier projections of about 500,000 units in 2020. “I think we’ll try to aim to do more cars than that. I think we’ll continue past that. We probably should get to a few million cars by 2025. We could probably get to a few million cars per year.” He also said that 2014 Q4 sales of the Model S were the best yet, and that Tesla was going to revise its sales reports to a more standard monthly basis.
A mixed bag of news for Tesla fans, and probably not what most were hoping to start off 2015 on. To me though, that just means there’s a lot left to look forward to from Tesla, including the Model X debut, monthly sales reports, battery swapping, the Roadster upgrade, and whatever other surprises Musk might have in store.