Tesla Motors Chief Executive and "product architect" Elon Musk told shareholders Tuesday that 2014 has been a great year and next year will be even better -- and kept them rolling in the aisles as he did so.
Addressing an approving audience in Mountain View, Calif., Musk emphasized his vehicles' performance and safety record, boasting that Teslas have driven a total of 344 million miles without "a serious permanent injury."
"And there have been some pretty crazy crashes," he said. "There was a guy who drove through two concrete walls at 110 mph."
He used to tell people the car was safe unless it was driven off a cliff, he joked.
"Then someone drove it off a cliff," he said. "Fine!"
Musk said his personal goal was to have Tesla drivers to love their car "as much as they love their house," and said he thought he had already achieved that in some owners.
Whistling quietly to himself between shareholder questions, dressed in a black sports coat and white dress shirt, Musk roamed the stage like a stand-up comic, dismissing hydrogen fuel cells as "fool cells" and said he was disappointed that other car manufacturers weren't more serious about making electric cars.
He teased early Tesla adapters by promising there would be a "cool" upgrade to the company's early Roadster electric car, but he declined to say what it was, and repeated his earlier statements that he will soon begin construction on the first of as many as three "gigafactory" plants to mass produce the batteries that propel his popular electric vehicles.
Getting serious, sort of, he told shareholders that he intended to remain CEO for at least four or five more years, but then joked, "Nobody is CEO of a company forever. Eventually they carry you out."
He also explained why, having already developed the Tesla S and planned production for the Model X, he had abandoned plans for building another car and calling it the Model E.
"Let me tell you our sort of deep thought process on branding here," Musk said. "I said, 'We’ve got the S and the X. We might as well make it the E.' Then Ford gave us a call and said they were going to sue us for using Model E."
Musk's response: "We were like, 'Ford’s killing sex! That’s terrible!' So, fine, we won’t use the Model E."
The CEO did say that the high-volume, low-cost vehicle, which will not be called Model E, will be in high-volume production by 2016. He also insisted it would be affordable.
The proposed $35,000 price tag, once fuel savings are taken into account, should really be compared to a gas-powered vehicle priced at $28,000.
He also said he was leaving shortly for England, to deliver the first right-hand-drive Model S. More of those will be sold soon, he promised, in other right-hand-drive markets, among them Japan, Australia and Hong Kong.
And, in case you were wondering, he finally explained why the coast-to-coast network of Tesla supercharger stations doesn't go in a straight line across the U.S. Tesla recently set a Guinness World Record for driving an electric car across the country, but did so using a route that dips much farther south and climbs much farther north than would logically make sense.
"It's because that's the original route I was going to take my family on a road trip," said Musk, who has been married twice and has five children.
Unfortunately, icy winter conditions delayed construction of the network, Musk said. "By the time it was completed, the kids were in school."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times