Ride The Lightning #200: My Elon Musk Interview

Full podcast here.

  • Apologies if it takes me a moment to get into things. By the end of the day my mind is loaded up with so much stuff. It takes a moment to unload. [1:13] 

  • I didn’t know if the model S would work. I just designed what I thought would be the perfect car for me. This is generally a good approach. If you are going design something and create a product - it’s very difficult to infer what others would love - but you know what you love. So make something that you love. And hopefully others will like it too. [3:44] 

  • You can’t create a product that you might actually fall in love with by trying to imagine what somebody else would love. [4:41] 

  • It is hard to design a good sedan. I tried at first but I did not succeed. That is why I asked Franz to join. [5:36] 

  • It is a great honor that someone would part with their hard earned money to buy our car instead of another car. It is a big deal. [7:09]

  • It’s a pretty small percentage of the cars on the road in California that are Tesla’s. For every new car bought there are something like 15 older cars. Even if Tesla sold 100% of new cars it would take 15 years to replace the fleet. [7:42] 

  • These days people don’t remember how foolish it seemed to make an electric car. We were relentlessly denigrated. Examples: The fact that we were doing electric car was stupidity squared. Gasoline cars would just go on for ever. If not gasoline then fuel cell cars. GM and Toyota tried electric cars and failed. How could we succeed when they failed? It was relentless negativity. [10:25] 

  • China is making half of all the electric cars in the world. [12:46] 

  • Electric cars are about 1% - 1.5% of cars produced. The trend is very much in the direction of electric. [13:52]

  • The width of the model 3 was driven by Japan. The parking machines in Japan go from 185 cm to 195 cm. We can initially made the mistake of building the model S at 196cm. They wouldn’t put it in any of the parking machines in Japan. [17:57]

  • We are going to do some things with new roadster that are kind of unfair to other cars. [22:07]

  • The amount of hubris we put into the Model X is really astounding. That car is made of hubris. It’s nutty. [25:13]

  • Are you going to let developers to write apps for Teslas? In order for it to be worthwhile for somebody to write an app there has to be enough of an install base. As the number of vehicles grow it starts to make more sense. We just need a lot cars. If we have millions of cars that starts to make sense. . .There is no money in it right now. We are orders away of magnitude from the install base of iOS or Android. [38:53]

  • Tesla has the most exciting product line up by a long shot. I’m hard pressed to think of what would be 2nd or 3rd. [44:04] 

  • Gasoline cars have had trillions of dollars and 150 years to refine internal combustion engine technology. [46:28]

  • The Tesla truck won’t look like a normal truck. It will look pretty sci fi. That means it won’t be for everyone. If someone wants a truck that looks like trucks have looked for the last 20 to 40 years then this is probably not for them. The aspirational goal is be a better truck than an f150 in terms of truck like functionality and be a better sports car than a standard Porsche 911. [51:55]

  • I think the semi will be a very big part of Tesla’s business. There are very important fundamental use cases. [57:29]

  • It only makes sense to add new products at volume if we have the battery cell capacity to support them. Otherwise we are simply adding complexity and not adding new cars on the road. We had to convert all the battery cell lines for the power wall to make cells for the model 3. [58:17]

  • There are very few products out there that bring you joy. How many products can you buy that you really love? It is very rare. [59:53]