“I think maybe every one of you is expecting [to hear] what Elon Musk has to say about Tesla’s developments going forward,” the event presenter said on stage Tuesday in comments translated by Chinese broadcaster CGTN.
The Tesla CEO, who just 20 minutes prior was dancing on stage in excitement, didn’t hold back — unexpectedly declaring that a Tesla team in China would design a “radical” electric car, as groundbreaking as the Cybertruck, for release to a worldwide audience.
The event was held to deliver the first 10 China-made Tesla vehicles to customers, a milestone in the construction of the third Gigafactory in Shanghai. The construction team broke ground on the factory one year prior to the day. But while it’s a key step in Tesla’s aim to deliver affordable Model 3 sedans and Model Y compact SUVs to consumers, Musk made it clear that the new factory would act as a step toward more ambitious plans.
“I think something that would be super cool would be to…so, we’re going to do it, we’re going to try to do it…is to create a China design and engineering center to actually design an original car in China for worldwide consumption. I think this would be very exciting. I think China has some of the best art in the world and I think it’s something that would be appreciated on a worldwide basis. I think it should be done, and we’re going to do it.”
As he continued, Musk echoed some of the rhetoric he employed around the Cybertruck prior to its launch. Tesla’s current master plan commits to bringing electric cars to a mass market, and the Shanghai Gigafactory is a part of Tesla’s goal to put a facility on every continent. But despite these mass-market aims, Musk declared in November 2018 that “I don’t care” if anyone buys the pickup truck.
The Cybertruck, unveiled in November, was a bold design to say the least. Its angular shape was reminiscent of nineties-era video games, immediately making headlines around the world — although that may have been in part due to the now-infamous window that broke during an on-stage stress test.
On Tuesday, Musk seemed interested in breaking new ground once again.
“Try something kinda radical, like Cybertruck. Nobody was expecting that! I think we should try to do something…cool and different, something the world hasn’t seen before. That really moves their heart. Gets them right there. That’s the kind of product that we want. We wish there were more of those things in the world. That’s what we’re going to do.”
In the days after the Cybertruck launch, Musk had said that the vehicle would be “our last product unveil for a while.” Tuesday’s comments suggest that, while the product launches may slow for the near future, Tesla is not scaling back on its ambition.
Musk gave little away, however, about where Tesla may focus for its next vehicle. The CEO has previously expressed interest in designing a $25,000 car, $10,000 cheaper than its entry-level Model 3. Musk told YouTuber Marques “MKBHD” Brownlee in August 2018 that it could reach this goal in three to four years. Analysts told Inverse in March 2019, however, that it could depend on batteries reaching ambitiously low prices.
Musk’s commitment to building a China design center should come as little surprise. Musk had also committed to building a design and engineering center in Berlin, as part of the firm’s November 2019 announcement that the city would host the company’s fourth Gigafactory.
The CEO has also stressed that the Shanghai Gigafactory is not just a production plant, praising the engineering team in July 2018. Musk said at the ground-breaking ceremony in January 2019 that “somebody who joins today as a junior engineer in Tesla China could one day be CEO of Tesla worldwide.”
“We intend to continue making a significant investment and increasing the investment in China, making the Model and the Model Y and future models also in China,” Musk said on Tuesday.
As part of the ceremony, Musk delivered keys to the first 10 Chinese customers. The first customer received a white China-made Tesla Model 3, represented by a giant novelty keycard. The biggest visible difference with these China-made cars is the rear, which translates Tesla’s name into “特斯拉.”
Tesla has gradually moved from strength to strength, as the once-obscure automaker has encouraged a broader shift to electric vehicles. MIT professor Lex Fridman estimates that Tesla has delivered over 900,000 vehicles in its history. Of these, over 700,000 of these are equipped with “Hardware 2” sensors designed to one day support fully autonomous driving.
On January 3, Tesla announced a record-breaking quarter for deliveries with over 112,000 vehicles. The Shanghai factory has already produced just under 1,000 customer-saleable cars.
Having delivered his bold proclamation about Tesla’s future plans, Musk turned to the presenter.
“Should I say more?” he asked.
Watch the full presentation below: