Tesla CEO Remains Optimistic Despite Falling Fuel Prices and Rising Competition

Addressing a gathering at the Automotive News World Congress in Detroit on Tuesday, Tesla Motors’ CEO Elon Musk stated that his company will build “a few million” all-electric vehicles by 2025, upping the goal of just 33,000 he set just last year.

With gas prices in a freefall and General Motors unveiling its Chevrolet Bolt EV (which some are already referring to as the “Tesla Killer”) the timing of Musk’s announcement seems a bit out of sync with the times.  But the South African-born Musk says increased competition from other automakers only furthers his ultimate goal of making a difference in the world.

“If the big car companies make risky decisions to make electric vehicles,” said Musk, “We’ll try to be as helpful as we can.”  But, with the unveiling of the Chevrolet Bolt concept car, and next generation Nissan Leaf AEV scheduled to launch in 2017, some are questioning whether or not the big automakers actually need his help at all.

Nissan’s next generation Leaf will reportedly get up to 200 miles between recharges, and the Chevrolet Bolt will have a base sticker price of $38,000, not including tax credits.  The Tesla Model S sells for nearly double that price.  Faced with that level of competition, and with oil prices dropping below $45 a barrel earlier this week, some industry insiders are beginning to raise questions about Tesla’s viability.

Musk concedes that oil prices may remain low “for a long time”, but argues that there is still “huge societal pressure” on automakers and lawmakers to continue developing low emissions vehicles.  Moreover, Tesla is in more than 30 other countries, and in many of them fuel prices remain relatively high compared to the U.S.

There is also evidence to support Musk’s claim that he’s more concerned with making a difference than making sales.  Last year, Tesla made hundreds of its own EV patents available at no charge to automakers worldwide. Tesla’s stock price has dropped more than 25 percent since peaking early last fall, and the company has not reported a yearly profit in its founding in 2003. Yet Musk remains defiantly optimistic about Tesla’s future and says, “Some degree of success is assured.  It’s only a question of magnitude.”

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