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Trevor Collett | Jan, 14 2015 | 8 Comments

Tesla CEO Elon Musk addressed a wide range of topics in a speech at the Detroit Auto Show this week, taking aim at other carmakers and talking up the future of electric vehicles.

Speaking at the Automotive News World Congress, Musk accused carmakers of dragging the chain on EV development; in part due to the current price war on oil.

The CEO said Tesla could not tackle global warming on its own, and other carmakers needed to push EVs to increase their popularity.

Besides competition from falling oil prices, the EV segment is also facing a downturn in the key Chinese market.

Musk said that Chinese customers have expressed concern over difficulties with installing recharging points in high-rise apartment buildings, but Tesla has moved to reassure potential buyers that any difficulties are minor.

Despite these hurdles, Musk has predicted his earlier target of 500,000 sales per year by 2020 can, in fact, be bettered.

"I think we'll try to aim to do more cars than that. I think we'll continue past that. We probably should get to a few million cars by 2025. We could probably get to a few million cars per year," Musk said.

Boosting sales through greater accessibility

Underscoring his new goal, Musk noted that the entire 2015 production schedule for the Model S has already been exhausted, with similar success for the coming Model X.

Musk reserved praise for General Motors and Nissan for their Volt and Leaf models respectively, but predicted Tesla’s future Model 3 would be cheaper than the new Chevrolet Bolt once it finally arrives.

A price of around US$30,000 has been predicted for the Bolt, but Musk believes this estimate includes government financial incentives - whereas his US$35,000 goal for the Model 3 excludes the handouts.

This would see the Model 3 fall below the Bolt by around US$2,500, depending on the state that the buyer resides in (potentially increasing the savings).

Chevrolet Bolt Concept
Chevrolet Bolt Concept

On the Model 3, Musk said it would be around 20 percent smaller than the Model S while lengthening the options list from its larger and established sibling to keep entry-level prices down.

The Model 3 will not simply be a shrunken Model S, Musk said, but it also won't be a “weird-mobile”.

Direct sales, new tech

While Tesla will continue with its current sales model through retail ‘stores’ for now, the carmaker hasn’t completely dismissed the idea of selling cars through franchised dealers in the future.

In fact, Tesla may have little choice but to embrace franchising, with dealer lobby groups in the US essentially blocking the brand's expansion by protesting its 'direct sales' approach across the country.

"I think it's mostly about getting people comfortable and making sure there's a reasonable compromise here," Musk said.

"In the case of Texas particularly, direct sales is fundamental to the Texas ethos. Michael Dell started Dell, in Texas."

"So the prohibition of direct sales is antithetical to what Texas is about. It's un-Texan."

The carmaker will also continue its rollout of Supercharger stations, particularly throughout China and Europe but ultimately “most of the world”.

Musk’s talk also touched on predictions that Tesla would be “first to market” with autonomous features, but the public would need to be convinced that self-driven cars were ‘ten times safer’ than normal cars before they would buy them.

Tesla Model X
Tesla Model X

That 'other' green tech: hydrogen

Musk, already a well-known opponent to hydrogen as a fuel source for electric vehicles, slammed the technology during this speech.

"I just think that they're extremely silly," he said. "They're very difficult to solve and extremely inefficient. ... It's terrible.

"Why would you do that? It makes no sense. You can't tell when it's leaking. It's extremely flammable. If you're going to choose an energy, it's a dumb one to pick."

In 2013, Musk told an audience at a Tesla employee and customer event in Germany that hydrogen cars "are bullshit".

"There are lots of people who say electric cars are never going to happen, and that we should just burn hydrocarbons forever," Musk said.

"And then they'll say certain technologies like fuel cell, and it's like, oh god, fuel cell is so bullshit."

In January, Toyota revealed it would open access to its nearly 6000 patents on hydrogen technology, in a push to build industry interest.

Toyota's move followed a similar step by Tesla, taken earlier in 2014, which saw Musk declare that Tesla's own patents and research into electric vehicle technology will be made available to all-comers.

Tesla and beyond

The CEO said he would stay with Tesla until he dies but wouldn’t be CEO for that entire time, adding he tries "to be a good boss, most of the time, not all the time".

Musk also wants a carbon tax, referred to hydrogen-fueled powerplants as “fool cells”, said no carmakers had taken up Tesla’s offer to share its patents for free (that he knows of) and remarked that Tesla had learnt ‘nothing’ from any of the other cars on the road.

When asked if he was planning a trip to Mars one day Musk replied “I hope so”, but wasn’t sure if he could live long enough for his goal to become a reality.

And why does the Model S now feature rear reading lights again? One of Musk’s sons declared it “the stupidest car in the world” while trying to read a book in the back seat one day.

Musk thought rear interior lights weren’t necessary in the era of smart phones and tablets, but his son convinced him that they are.

MORE: Musk Named ‘Top Disrupter’ Among Influential Identities
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