Elon expects a few million annual Tesla electric car sales by 2025 and a self-driving Tesla approved around 2023

Elon Musk said Tesla will be making a few million electric-cars a year by 2025 — up from about 33,000 last year. And about all those high-powered rivals at the door like the Chevy Bolt ? They should, he said, invest even more toward electric cars. In other words: Bring it on.

Musk has long criticized his compatriots in the auto world for their sluggishness in developing battery-powered cars en masse. That criticism, and many others, have made Musk the man the auto establishment loves to hate, the ultimate outsider in a car-making capital of insiders who think he’s overhyped or hate his guts.

Now that automakers are starting to push back with designs that could give Tesla a run for its money, the South African-born firebrand isn’t backing down. In fact, Musk is chalking it up as a new victory for his mission to accelerate the advent of electric cars and, as he said, “make a difference in the world.”

Phasing in self driving features

Tesla will begin phasing in “autopilot” features on its Model S sedan, predicted that the company will be first to market with a fully self-driving car, but likely not until after 2020. While Tesla may have a driverless car ready in five years, the vehicles may not receive regulatory approval for another two to three years after that, he said.

Musk also said the company’s long-delayed Model X sport utility vehicle will be launched this summer, while the lower-priced, higher-volume Model 3 is on track for a 2017 introduction.

The Model 3 will be critical to Tesla’s goal of reaching an annual sales level of 500,000 vehicles a year by 2020, a target which Musk also reaffirmed.

Tesla sales in China were unexpectedly weak in the fourth quarter. Elon blamed a misperception by city-dwelling Chinese consumers that they might have difficulty charging their electric cars. He expects this misperception to be fixed and for things to be good in China by mid-year.

Model 3 will be cheaper than Chevy Bolt

Does the Chevy Bolt, promised to cost $30,000 and boast 200 miles of range, present a challenge to Tesla’s $35,000 Model 3? Not from where Musk’s standing.

Musk points out that Chevy’s claimed $30,000 price tag assumes the $7500 federal tax incentive for zero-emissions cars, putting the vehicle’s true price at $37,500. The Model 3, Musk insists, will come in at $35,000 before any incentives, meaning buyers will only be on the hook for $27,500. And that’s before any additional state-based incentives.

In order to expand capacity, Musk says the Tesla will need to establish assembly plants in Europe, Asia, and the U.S. East Coast. Could such a factory end up in Detroit? “Maybe if they let me sell cars here,” Musk deadpanned.

Musk was referring to laws in Michigan, Arizona, New Jersey, and Texas, which prohibit the direct-to-consumer auto sales model Tesla currently uses.

Gigafactory needs to help deliver 30% reduction in battery pack costs

The success of the Model 3 also hinges on driving down the cost of the battery pack. Tesla’s battery “gigafactory” under construction in Nevada will produce more lithium-ion cells than the entire world’s current output. It will cost $5 billion to build, with Tesla and battery supplier Panasonic splitting most of the costs.

“We need to have a 30-percent reduction in [battery] pack costs by 2020, because the car has to cost half as much as a Model S. The car is 20-percent lighter, so that means 20-percent less pack, and the battery pack has to contribute that additional 30 [percentage] points, Musk said.

Musk jokingly admitted that such volume growth will put strain on the maintenance-and-repair side of the business, saying that, “We’re going to need more than three guys and a van.” He said Tesla would be unveiling a new service model in a few months.

SOURCES – Reuters, Washington Post, Road and Track, Consumer Reports