The year 2014 has been called a year of ‘execution’ for Tesla Motors. Not meaning the company is headed for the guillotine, but that it has a lot of important projects on its plate this year; Tesla must execute their strategy to near perfection to maintain their enormous momentum. Judging by the words of CEO Elon Musk at this Tuesday’s shareholder meeting, all is still going according to plan.
Musk’s presentation began with the expected rundown of updates. Model S has now collectively traveled 344 million miles with no serious permanent injuries – including somebody who “drove it off a cliff.” Tesla hopes to double the current number of Superchargers by the end of 2014 to well over 200 worldwide. Musk also reiterated that the constraint on battery cells is gradually fading, allowing greater volumes of Model S to be produced in the second half of the year.
Tesla to break ground at three Gigafactory sites
As always, the Gigafactory was a point of discussion. Musk remains optimistic about a minimum 30% cost reduction in battery packs, a number he claims Panasonic has finally come around to. The CEO indicated that sometime within the next month Tesla will select and break ground at three sites, not two as had been previously reported. The final site will be selected by the end of this year.
Production Model X to be “better than the show car”
Model X, which has been delayed more than the company would have liked, is on track for volume production in the second quarter of 2015. The reason for the long wait? According to Musk, Tesla believes in making production cars that are superior to their ‘show car’ predecessors, which is quite a refreshing change even if we must wait a few extra months. Musk indicated it is very difficult to produce not just a very good car, but “an amazing car that will blow people away.”
Generation III updates
The Gen III car will no longer be called Model E, because according to Musk Ford threatened to sue over the trademark. However, Tesla is in the process of applying for the trademark of the new name so we may know it soon. The plan is for the car to be released in late 2016 with volume production occurring the following year. It is still expected to cost $35,000 with 200 miles of range, which Musk claimed to be the equivalent of a $28,000 gasoline car ($24,000 in Europe) based on fuel cost savings. Though he has been known for what might be called ‘ambitious math’ in the past, we’ll take his word on this one.
Musk won’t be CEO forever, sharing Superchargers, patent disclosure?
Three other particularly interesting tidbits from the meeting stood out. Speaking on his own future, Musk said he will honor his commitment and plans to stay as CEO at least through volume production of Gen III, 4-5 years from now. After that, he says he will have to make a personal decision. Even if he decides to abdicate the throne, we think the company would be in good shape in the hands of one J.B. Straubel.
The CEO has tried to make it clear over the years that Tesla’s ultimate long-term goal is to advance the prospects of all electric vehicles, including through charging infrastructure that other companies lack. “[Tesla] would be happy to have other manufacturers use the Superchargers, they just have to create electric vehicles that can take the power level of the Superchargers,” said Musk.
The current generation of Superchargers puts out 135 kW with plans for increased power levels, which other electric vehicles couldn’t handle. According to Musk, nobody has approached Tesla wanting to use the network. We think that’s a shame, but it has to happen eventually. In a few years the Supercharger network will be by far the most high-powered and convenient infrastructure for long-range EV travel, and other automakers would be foolish not to take advantage once they have longer-range battery electric cars of their own.
Finally, we will leave you with a bit of a cliffhanger. Expressing his disappointment that other car companies haven’t come out with satisfactory electric car programs, Musk said he is “planning on doing something controversial with respect to Tesla’s patents,” but will wait to write it down so as to articulate it properly. Whatever his plan is, we’d be willing to bet the intent will be to help other automakers make better EVs. Wait and see!
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