Elon Musk says Tesla Motors is “narrowly focused” on getting the Model S sedan built and it is working with Daimler on an electric Mercedes A-Class compact. Oh — and it plans to have new models rolling out beginning in 2013.
The entrepreneur laid out an aggressive timeline for Tesla’s growth during a speech Tuesday in Detroit accepting the automotive executive of the year award. We weren’t there, but according to Autoweek, Musk said the Tesla Roadster is the first in what will be a line of cars including the gorgeous Model S and a crossover utility vehicle. Future models also will feature all-wheel drive.
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard Musk talk about a crossover utility vehicle, but there weren’t any specifics beyond the claim we’ll see new models in 2013 and 2014. Musk concedes that “is a rapid pace.” No kidding.
Talking about models beyond the Model S seems premature given that Tesla hasn’t finalized a location to build the S, a car it promises to have rolling off the line in 2012. Tesla also has made big promises for the car, not the least of which are a claimed range of 300 miles, room for seven people and a sticker price of $49,900 after the $7,500 federal EV tax credit. At least he’s got a $465 million loan from the feds to help build the car.
As if building the S weren’t enough to keep him busy, Musk also is preparing to take Tesla Motors public.
Still, Musk has to be looking ahead because only by increasing volume can he hope to bring down costs to a level most of us can afford. The Roadster starts at $101,500 and the S will run about half that. Musk expects Tesla’s third model to be accessible to mainstream customers, according to Autoweek. And he’s got to keep pace with Fisker Automotive, which already is looking ahead to its second and third models. (Though it too might want to focus first on getting the Karma built.)
More interesting is Musk’s plan to expand Tesla’s role as an electric drivetrain supplier. Tesla already has a deal to provide drivetrains for the electric Smart ForTwo, and it is providing batteries to Freightliner Custom Chassis for an electric delivery truck. Musk disclosed on Tuesday that Tesla will supply electric drivetrain technology for the Mercedes A-Class EV. That would make sense, given Daimler owns about 8 percent of Tesla.
“The smallest effect Tesla will make will be the cars we make ourselves,” Musk said. “The biggest effect will be the cars [other companies] make.”
Yes, you read that correctly. Musk appears to be minimizing the role his company’s core product — cars — will play in its future. That begs the question of who, exactly, will be working with Tesla. Most of the major automakers are lining up partnerships with battery companies, if not launching battery operations of their own. Of course, highlighting Tesla’s potential as a drivetrain supplier may be a pitch to prospective investors.
Tesla Motors spokesman Ricardo Reyes was returning from Detroit and could not be reached for comment.