Musk, co-founder of electric-car maker Tesla, is known for speaking out even on some of his most ambitious ideas. Now he says he’s trying to show restraint and let his company’s actions do the talking.
Over the years, Musk has proposed colonizing Mars and developing a fifth form of human transportation. More recently, he’s challenged the auto industry’s retail model and pushed to limit federal regulators’ oversight of Tesla’s chargers. He said in an interview it’s time to under-promise and over-deliver.
While China may become Tesla’s biggest market, Musk resisted predicting that would happen next year. Fourth-quarter Model S sales were probably 20 % higher than Musk had forecast as recently as November. And while he still projects needing more capacity than the 500,000 cars his factory can make each year, he declines to predict when he’ll need a second one.
“I’d like to get into the habit of exceeding expectations,” said Musk, 42. He envisions building a half million electric vehicles annually at Tesla’s Fremont, California, plant, without saying when that will happen. “We’re at a measly 30,000 unit a year run rate.”
Musk’s hallmark swagger and high-tech ambitions created a global market for Tesla’s premium Model S sedans and contributed to a quadrupling of the Palo Alto, California-based carmaker’s shares last year. The challenge is to keep investors happy and live up to expectations of steadily expanding sales that have given the young company a market value of more than $20 billion.
Musk’s more unusual goals have included an ambition to land a spacecraft on Mars in 10 to 15 years, which he detailed in 2012, the same year Space Exploration Technologies Corp. became the first company to dock a commercial craft at the International Space Station.
He’s also championing a solar-powered system known as the Hyperloop that would consist of some form of tube carrying people from downtown San Francisco to Los Angeles in 30 minutes. Musk has said the idea could be a “fifth mode of transportation,” after trains, planes, automobiles and boats.