The DealBook conference has been going on all day, and Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) CEO Elon Musk will be on soon. He will be speaking with DealBook Columnist and Editor Andrew Ross Sorkin. So what will they be talk about? Tesla and SpaceX are specifically mentioned on the DealBook agenda, although SolarCity Corp (NASDAQ:SCTY), of which Musk is chairman, isn’t mentioned.
I would be surprised if Elon Musk didn’t address the three Model S fires which have been making headlines for weeks and maybe even Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA)’s share price, which has come down a lot since he said it was more than they deserve. He’ll probably have plenty to say about their successful launches at SpaceX too. But we’ll just have to see. Should be interesting.
Live coverage of the interview will be starting soon, so stay tuned for more from Elon Musk.
4:02 p.m. Eastern
The interview with Elon Musk is starting, and Sorkin is cutting right to the Model S fires. He asked about the rumored Model S recall.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk says there’s no reason for a recall because Tesla’s cars don’t catch fire any more often than other vehicles. They now have one for every 8,000 cars, so they are about five times less likely to have a fire than the average car. He said if fire risk is a concern, then drivers would have a difficult time finding a safer car than the Model S.
Musk also said they’ve never had “a serious injury or death” in their cars. So he said maybe there is a car as safe as the Model S but there isn’t a car that’s safer because it would have to have zero fires.
There are 200,000 gasoline car fires per year in the U.S., according to Musk, and he asks how many times we’ve read about those. He says this is “extremely unreasonable and wrong” that Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) is being sort of held accountable for car fires because their cars are so much less likely to have a fire than a gasoline car.
When asked what’s going on with the fires, Elon Musk said they’re replacing the drivers’ Model S as quickly as possible. He also explained that the drivers felt like the car saved them from death or serious injuries. In the second fire, the driver said he probably would have died if he hadn’t been in a Model S. There were multiple impacts in that wreck, which was extremely violent. The driver and passengers walked away, and afterward there was a small fire.
Musk compared the Model S to the Titanic. Like if it smashed through the first and second icebergs, then stopped at the third and all passengers debarked safely, and then the headlines were about a small fire on the ship.
Musk says he’s a perfectionist and that they would do a recall if they felt like there was something affecting the safety of the Model S. He says that they are not considering a recall, however.
Sorkin then asked about his entrepreneur side, specifically about Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA)’s significant stock take-off this year. Musk called the high stock price “somewhat distracting,” although he thinks the value of the company in the long term will be “well in excess of that.” They will do their best to meet high expectations but that right now people are having a lot of faith in future execution.
When asked about George Clooney’s comments about his Tesla car. Musk said it was “a needless comment needlessly reported.” He said it was a 2008 Roadster—a five-year old car. He said it’s like saying his iPhone 1 had a bug.
The questions have turned toward Tesla’s expansion. Sorkin is asking about whether demand in the U.S. has peaked, and Musk says he doesn’t buy it. He said at least in the short term, they’re constrained on production, not demand. And it’s going to take time to fix that.
Musk was asked about what the roads will look like 10 years from now, like the percentages of gasoline cars and electric cars, etc. Musk’s answer said it’s hard to predict but he believes in the long term all transportation except rockets will be 100% electric. He said rockets will be last because of the high amount of energy needed.
Sorkin asked how far we are from batteries being widely viewed as safe. Elon Musk said with the 787 the issue was spontaneous combustion rather than a fire after a wreck. When asked if he would fly on a 787 Dreamliner electric plane, Musk said he would but it wouldn’t be his first choice. He would prefer a 747 because it’s the fastest. He sees the 787 as “a bit disappointing” because it isn’t much of an improvement from the 777. He thinks too much money was spent for a little bit of efficiency improvement.
He was asked if he wants to make airplanes too. He thinks it would be great to make a supersonic jet but doubts it would come from Boeing or … It could come from a startup.
Asked about flying cars, Musk said he likes the idea on one hand but it might not be what people want. He said with many cars and lots of mechanical failures, people will wonder where they will land. He also questioned noise pollution.
In terms of driverless cars and driverless Tesla cars, Musk said they are focused on “active safety” until the car can drive itself in almost every scenario. He thinks the threshold will be “much safer than a person driving a car.” He believes driverless cars will be held to a higher standard, just like electric cars are held to a higher standard than gasoline cars. Musk estimates that it will be “a while,” maybe 10 or 20 years before driverless cars are safe enough.
When asked how many ideas he has a week, he said his ideas start with something that makes him not like something about the future and whether he can fix it, like with the Hyperloop. He said it seems not as good as what’s been done in China or Japan. He also has an idea for an electric train. It bothers him when it looks like the future is getting worse.
Musk is a successful serial entrepreneur. He thinks people can come up with more than one great idea.
When asked who the next Steve Jobs is, he said “cool things happening” like Amazon or Dropbox. Larry Page’s name also came up. Musk also said he doesn’t want to be Microsoft’s CEO but that it can be turned around with the right person.