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The Latest From Electric Car, Spaceship, and Hyperloop Man Elon Musk

By Daniel Sparks - Jan 18, 2015 at 2:04PM

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We're talking about a vision for millions of electric cars, a test track for passenger-filled 800 mph pods, a car combining the best of a sports car with the utility of a minivan, and more.

Early morning January 10, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk oversaw a rocket launch purposed to resupply the International Space Station for NASA. But what was special about this launch is that, following the resupply, Musk and his team were attempting the first-ever controlled rocket landing.

There was just a 50% chance for a successful mission, Musk said. After resupply, the rocket made its way to an autonomous spaceport drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean, but crashed on the landing platform.

Liftoff of Falcon 9 and Dragon in SpaceX' fifth official mission to resupply the International Space Station. Image source: SpaceX.

"Close, but no cigar this time. Bodes well for the future tho," Musk said on Twitter following the landing attempt. "Ship itself is fine. Some of the support equipment on deck will need to be replaced," he said in a follow-up tweet. 

After an eventful weekend, it was time for Musk to switch gears from SpaceX CEO to Tesla (TSLA 4.67%) CEO. Now, he needed to go to Detroit to tell automakers why they should be building more electric cars.

The closely followed CEO's comments are subject to intense scrutiny by the media and investors. While some of Musk's chatter is occasionally misunderstood as journalists devour his every word, there's good reason for the magnifying glass over his commentary: Tesla's $24 billion market capitalization is sitting on a foundation of enormous bets and a fast-growing company. This means a slight shift in the big-thinking CEOs plans, sentiment, or confidence, or any hiccup in the company's ambitious operations could have a huge impact on the optimistic outlook the market has for the company.

On that note, it's time to check in on some recent comments from Musk. Here are five of the most important takeaways from his Detroit interview last week.

Tesla wants to sell millions of cars per year
The shaky days when Musk wasn't sure whether Tesla could succeed are now in the past, according to the CEO.

Now, I think that some degree of success is assured, but it's a question of the magnitude. So, does Tesla become sort of a niche car-maker making maybe 100,000 cars a year or something like that, which is obviously super tiny? ... That would be 0.1 percent of market share ... I think we should be able to get to at least a few million cars per year in 10 years.

Tesla Factory in Fremont, California. Author's photo.

In 2014, Tesla sold somewhere around 33,000 vehicles if it hit its own fourth-quarter guidance. The company hopes to sell 50,000 Model S cars this year, and also begin deliveries of its fully electric SUV, the Model X. Looking out further, Tesla aspires to sell 500,000 cars per year by 2020 with the help of its $5 billion Gigafactory, and a lower-cost Model 3 aimed at a 2017 launch.

Demand for Model S in China took a detour, but it's back on track
Orders for Model S in China weren't as high as Tesla expected in Q4, Musk said during the interview.

I'd say that China was certainly a lot weaker than expected. [This was] mostly -- I think -- about the misperception about the difficulty of charging, which we are correcting. And we are seeing now an uptick in our sales in China. They just weren't all that significant in the fourth quarter.

Musk says sales are back on track as the company takes strides to repair these "misperceptions." Part of this effort is likely the 56 China Supercharger locations that have exploded onto the scene, many of which have launched in the last few months.

This comment on weaker-than-expected demand for Model S in China is likely one of the reasons Tesla's stock fell 7% following the interview.

Model X is going to be great
Musk is raving about the Model X, which he says will begin deliveries this summer.

"It has, like, the CG [or center of gravity] of a sports car, and the functionality of a minivan," Musk said. "This car is really good. And I do not say these things lightly. ... I really think this is going to be something special.

Model S (left) and Model X prototype (right). Image source: Tesla Motors.

The Model X, which was originally supposed to begin production in late 2013 and has been delayed multiple times, will definitely launch this summer, Musk insisted.

After an interview in Detroit, Musk headed to Texas for what The Texas Tribune calls a "public relations blitz ... [in] hopes to persuade the Texas Legislature to allow Tesla to sell cars directly to Texans and circumvent the state's requirements that cars be sold through dealerships."

In Texas, Musk announced a new project on his mind: He wants to create a test track for his hyperloop concept. If you're not familiar with the idea he came up with in his spare time, just imagine a passenger-filled 800 mph pod-shooting tube. The idea "sounded good last night after a couple of drinks," he said in an interview with The Texas Tribune.

Wrapping up the week, Musk shared on Twitter Friday that he's already planning another rocket landing on a drone ship in two to three weeks.

Daniel Sparks owns shares of Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool recommends Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Tesla Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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