Q and A: Elon Musk, CEO, Tesla

On the Model S and the end of range anxiety

We see our market as being the market for premium sedans above $50,000, accounting, globally, for a couple million units a year. The Model S is [an owner's] primary car.

We'll be unveiling the Tesla Supercharger strategy [quick charging stations] in a couple of months. The Supercharger strategy should address people's intercity concerns. It charges three hours of driving in 30 minutes, which is the convenience inflection point, approximately, for a gasoline car. Generally, if you start [driving] at 9 am, by the time you hit noon, you want to go to the bathroom, grab lunch. If you add up the time it's something like 20 to 30 minutes.

On Tesla's planned $30,000 sedan

If we are successful enough to get to our third-generation vehicle, our $30,000 vehicle, then we'll be able to use the whole [Fremont] plant. It'd be three to four years [from now]. It would be quite similar to the Model S but scaled down. Probably about the size of a BMW 3-series or an Audi A4.

I'd like to try to think of some innovative things we can do on that third-generation vehicle, but the focus will be primarily on having a great car at $30,000, which will require a lot ingenuity. So, we'll be on third-generation powertrain technology, we'll scale up production by an order of magnitude, roughly, and then the car itself will probably be twenty to thirty percent lighter.

On Henrik Fisker and the Karma

I don't think very highly of Henrik Fisker. At first I thought I'd outsource the design of the Model S to Henrik Fisker when he had a styling company...And, the initial proposals he came with were pretty good, and then as we got into it they started getting worse and worse. I was very puzzled as to why he was producing such awful designs for us. It turns out what he actually decided to do was to take our specifications for the Model S...he took that basic plans, shopped it, got it funded, didn't tell us. What it turned out was, we were paying him to do styling for his own car.

[Note: Tesla sued Henrik Fisker and lost in mediation.]

The fundamental problem with Henrik Fisker he is a designer or stylist...he thinks the reason we don't have electric cars is for lack of styling. This is not the reason. It's fundamentally a technology problem. At the same time you need to make it look good and feel good, because otherwise you're going to have an impaired product. But just making something look like an electric car does not make it an electric car. [Fisker] thinks the most important thing in the world -- or the only important thing in the world -- is design, so he outsourced the engineering and manufacturing. But the fact is...that's the crux of the problem. And he's outsourcing to people who don't know how to solve the problem. So he came up with a product -- it's a mediocre product at a high price. It looks good. Particularly from the side it looks good. I don't love the front. It looks too much like a caricature of a Mexican Bandito, the grille. The car looks very big, it's bigger than the Model S, but it has no trunk space and it's cramped inside, particularly in the rear seats. The mark of a good design is something that has great aesthetics and great functionality.

[Note: In the interest of fairness, we provided Henrik Fisker the opportunity to respond to Musk's comments. He did so via e-mail:

"Firstly, to set the record straight, Fisker won in court...a judge threw out the case and awarded costs to Fisker.

We are delighted that Elon thinks the Karma is a good-looking car.

Obviously, Tesla and Fisker are appealing to two different customer bases with two totally different technologies. Tesla has pure EV and Fisker has a range-extended offering with no compromise on range. We are proud to have delivered over 1000 Karmas to customers in the U.S. and Europe and are now moving into the [Gulf Cooperation Council countries] and Chinese global markets.

We wish Tesla all the best with their latest model and hope that both companies go from strength to strength as they challenge the automotive rulebook."

On high performance and gestalt

Before the Model S, my family car was a 911 Turbo. [The rear seats] fit two small boys really well. [Musk has five children.] It's a good car. So it's not as though I'm some super eco person. I believe you've got to have a compelling product at the end of the day. Otherwise you're just going to address a very small segment of the population that cares enough to suffer through this horrible product. And it's just never going to scale. We had to show -- and I think we have with the Model S -- that an electric car can be better than any gasoline car. When you look at it in terms of safety aesthetics, functionality, performance, entertainment, fit and finish -- when you combine all those elements, how they combine as a gestalt. Do they all fit together and make sense? I think the Model S does.

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