Elon Musk is "excited" about designing original electric cars which could come in new form factors, the Tesla CEO said Tuesday.
In a live-streamed interview during the three-day European Conference on Batteries, subsequently shared by YouTube user Christian Baumann, Musk was asked about plans to design original vehicles at the company's Giga Shanghai and under-construction Giga Berlin facilities.
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"I think for a lot of the best people they really want to work somewhere where they're doing original design work," Musk said.
"They don't want to just be doing, say, the European version of something that was designed in California. I think it's important, in order to attract the best talent, to do original design."
In terms of what another new Tesla car may look like, Musk suggested Tesla could design a smaller vehicle at the Berlin facility.
"I think possibly in Europe it would make sense to do...I guess a compact car, so perhaps a hatchback or something like that," Musk said.
The comments shed light on Tesla's future car lineup. The firm currently sells four cars, a sedan in high-end (Model S) and entry-level (Model 3) flavors, and an SUV with a similar split (Model X and Model Y).
Tesla plans to release the Cybertruck in late 2021, the company's third sub-$50,000 vehicle. It's the final piece of Musk's three-part strategy to reach a mass market, as outlined in 2016. After the truck, Tesla plans to release a second-generation Roadster with high-end specifications. It's also planning a Semi truck aimed at industry.
While we have known about the Cybertruck and the Roadster for years, these vehicles are yet to hit roads.
After these three new vehicles, Tesla's plans get murkier still. When the Cybertruck was first debuted to fans in November 2019, Musk said it would be the firm's last product unveil "for a while."
But since then, Musk has dropped a number of hints about yet more cars:
- In January 2020, at the handover event for Giga Shanghai's first cars, Musk said he wanted to "design an original car in China for worldwide consumption... 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."
- In the company's July 2020 earnings call, Musk said that it "would be reasonable to assume that we would make a compact vehicle of some kind, you know, and probably a higher capacity passenger vehicle of some kind."
- At the Battery Day technology presentation in September 2020, Musk said the company aimed to make a $25,000 car in the "long term."
So what would Giga Berlin design? Musk suggested in Tuesday's interview that it would come down to local preferences:
"What do most people want in a given region, or what is a very popular approach to take? In the U.S. the cars tend to be bigger for personal taste reasons, and in Europe tends to be smaller. If you're trying to park in a dense urban environment, having a car that actually fits in a parking space easily is important. I was driving a Model X around Berlin and we had quite a bit of trouble finding a parking space that we could fit."
"I'm excited about doing some original design in Europe," Musk added.
The Inverse analysis — A smaller car for Europe makes sense. A myriad of factors, like more distance to cover and cheaper gas, means American buyers have traditionally favored bigger cars than their European counterparts. Musk has outlined plans for a smaller Cybertruck for the continent, but Tesla is yet to deliver on the original design. Electric car firm Rivian has also hinted at releasing a smaller vehicle for the market.
Tesla's vehicles have all been designed in the United States so far, but Musk seems keen to broaden the firm's horizons. With plans for a factory on every continent, Tesla's output could become increasingly tailored to an international market.