Motor Trend has given its Car of the Year award to Tesla for its Model S electric sedan
(CBS News) -- For more than a century, automakers have tried and failed
to build a popular electric car. Tesla Motors is now promising that an
affordable one is on the way. Its first car, the Tesla Model S, is now
rated safest in the world. The carmaker, it seems, may have plugged into
a formula that works.
Tesla's Model S electric car has
often been seen as a novelty, a cutting-edge toy for the rich, but
America's youngest car company is enjoying a run of good news that has
nothing to do with being the new kid on the assembly line.
a recent interview with CBS News' Ben Tracy, Musk said he's really
"proud of the fact that we've gotten the safety to where it is."
week, chief executive officer Elon Musk announced the National Highway
Traffic Safety Administration has given his Model S sedan the highest
safety rating in its history of testing cars. Musk said, "When we did
the roof crush test ... it got to four times the weight of the car and
then the machine broke, so the, literally, the roof, the thing that's
supposed to crush the car, broke instead of the car."
further about the safety rating, Musk said, "That's incredibly
important to me because, my kids drive in the car every day, my friends
drive in the car every day, I really couldn't live with myself if there
was something that I could've done that, that would've saved them, and I
didn't do it."
Earlier this month, Tesla posted its
second consecutive profitable quarter, more than doubling its operating
profit from the first quarter of 2013. And then, last fall, the Tesla
Model S was named Motor Trend's 2013 Car of the Year. It was the first
time in the 64-year history of the prestigious honor that the winning
car did not run on gasoline.
"I'm not trying to be
disruptive for the sake of being disruptive," Musk replied. "That's not
making people's lives better, but in the case of oil-based transport,
there's no choice, we've got to disrupt that, we've got to have
sustainable means of transportation."
It's a long way
from 2008, when the fledgling company almost went bankrupt. Its critics
called Tesla a house of cards that would collapse due to the lack of
electric car charging stations and an unproven driving record.
Caldwell, of the car information Web site Edmunds.com, said, "I think
what Tesla and Elon Musk are trying to do is go by those criticisms
one-by-one and to very methodically address those: do we have good
performance? 'Yes, Motor Trend says that we did.' Do we have good
safety? 'Yes, (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) says that
we are a very safe car'."
The Model S can go up to 300
miles on a single charge and the company plans to add to its network of
superchargers along the East and West Coasts. The next challenge: making
a mass market electric car more people can afford, not just those who
can shell out more than $100,000 for a loaded Model S.
Musk said, "I think we can produce an affordable long-range compelling electric car in about three to four years."
like that are no longer considered boastful. In fact, traditional car
companies, such as General Motors have now formed teams to study Tesla
and learn from its success.
Musk said, "I think the big
American car companies kind of got complacent at a certain point and
they just stopped trying to innovate, or they didn't think anyone could
sort of outdo them and I think soon as you sort of have that, that
attitude, then somebody's going to outdo you."
21,000 production cars a year, Tesla isn't going to out-do Detroit in
volume anytime soon. But when it comes to innovation, the company is
cornering the market.