Elon Musk in Detroit: Tesla will produce 'millions' of cars by 2025

In his first appearance in Detroit in two years, Elon Musk laid out his projection that Tesla will be in the big leagues of car production in a decade.

Richard Drew/AP/File
SpaceX billionaire founder and chief executive, and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, poses beside a Tesla New York in September.

In his first appearance during the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in two years, Elon Musk laid out his agenda quite simply.

"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,” he says to the Automotive News World Congress, held in congruence with the Detroit auto show, according to the Detroit Free Press on their live blog following the coverage. “The need for sustainable transport is incredibly high."

In a Q&A session, Mr. Musk projected Tesla will produce millions of cars by 2025, laying out the company’s dedication to making EVs a major part of the automotive future. He also expressed frustrations with the slow-growing electric vehicle (EV) market and crunched numbers to fend off business skeptics. Despite a grilling from a curious, though dubious, Detroit, Musk hopes the niche EV market will soon catch on with the mass-producing Motor City elite. 

The eccentric co-founder and chief executive of Tesla Motors, started off by chastising his car-making cohorts for not making enough progress in the EV market alongside Tesla. Though there were several offerings by legacy carmakers, such as General Motor’s Chevrolet Bolt, a concept electric vehicle priced at $30,000 (after federal tax credits), Musk says he only sees "a little bit, not much" interest from other automakers in EVs. He did acknowledge those debuting innovations saying, “I think that's great. I hope to see a lot more of that."

On the Tesla end, however, Musk is enthusiastic about production. Musk predicts that Tesla Motors will reach "a few million cars" per year by 2025 (that would bring it into the realm of BMW), and hopes Tesla becomes a large-scale automaker, rather than a niche car company. The Model X, the newest Tesla model, which he promised would be released this summer, is already sold out of its first round of production.

Despite this optimism, there were several questions regarding Tesla’s finances especially among news that the company’s sales in China were down significantly. Musk defended that, saying there was a perception issue about charging capacity with Chinese customers. 

He added that Tesla is on track to turn a profit, but warned it may not be until 2020, when the Model 3 (a more affordable Tesla model that is still in  development) hits production. And though mass production is Tesla’s goal, the company only made about 33,000 vehicles in 2014.

Musk faced questions about distribution as well, given that, so far, the company has only sold cars through company-owned stores. Some states are pushing the company to also sell through dealerships. Musk left the possibility for franchised dealerships open, but made no promises yet.

In June, as a testament to its desire to kickstart the EV market, Tesla made all its electric vehicle patents open source in hopes that mass producing automakers would hop on board. Toyota followed suit last week, releasing the patents for its hydrogen fuel cell technology. At a press conference after his appearance at the Automotive News World Congress, Musk slammed the tech.

"You have to get that hydrogen from somewhere. If you're splitting H2O, electrolysis is extremely inefficient,” he says, according to the Verge's live blog. “If you compared it to a solar panel to charge a battery directly, [...] it is about half the efficiency. It's terrible."

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