Most of the commentary following Tesla Motors' (NASDAQ:TSLA) fourth-quarter results focused on the the financial metrics that fell short of expectations and Tesla CEO Elon Musk's wild prediction that the electric-car maker will have a $700 billion market capitalization within 10 years (near Apple's value today). But there's more to the story. Here are four more new comments from Musk worthy of a closer look.
On Tesla's Model 3
In a Reddit AMA, or Ask Me Anything, with Elon Musk earlier this year, Musk said the Model 3 "won't look like other cars." But Musk's more recent comments in Tesla's fourth-quarter letter to shareholders suggest that this wild approach to the Model 3 may have been shelved, for now.
"Now with respect to Model 3, we definitely don't want the delays that affected the X to affect the Model 3," Musk explained. "And we're really –- we are being quite contentious about this."
There are things that we could do with the Model 3 platform that are really adventurous -- but with the schedule at risk. So what we're going to do is we're going to have something that is going to be an amazing car, but it won't be the most adventurous version of the Model 3 to begin with. But we will then have the more sort of different version of the Model 3 -- on the Model 3 platform -- following the initial version, so that we can stay on track for Model 3.
Musk went on to say that he is confident Tesla can deliver the Model 3 in the second half of 2017.
Teasing Model X
Musk continues to raise expectations for the upcoming Model X crossover.
"They are the nicest second-row seats you've ever seen in any car ever," he said during the call. "That actually might have been harder than the door." He called the second row "a piece of sculptural beauty," saying they are "amazing."
And as if the teasing couldn't be any worse, Musk said there are "other things about the X that people don't know about yet."
Those interested in seeing the production version will have to wait. Taking a play from Apple's playbook, Musk said that because there are "sort of different features," the company is not going to show the car until it begins deliveries, or presumably when owners with orders for the X can finalize their exact configurations.
Tesla's foray into energy storage to begin in 2015
It will soon be time to attempt to quantify the potential of Tesla's energy storage business. Tesla said it is launching its first product in the segment soon.
We're going to unveil the Tesla home battery -- consumer battery that will be for use in people's houses or businesses fairly soon. We have the design done and it should start going into production probably in about six months or so. We're going to have to figure out a date to have sort of product unveiling. It's probably in the next month or two. It's really great. I'm really excited about it.
The product comes as Tesla says its Gigafactory, a factory purposed for building more lithium-ion batteries under one roof than the entire world produced in 2013, is ahead of schedule. Tesla's initial time frame to begin first cell production was 2016 to 2017, but it is now saying it's on track for a 2016 launch.
Tesla doesn't need China to meet annual guidance
While it's unfortunate that Tesla got off to a bad start in China, it won't make meeting guidance more difficult, Musk explained.
"Even if our sales in China were zero this year, zero, I'm still confident we could do the 55,000 cars," Musk said during the call.
This isn't entirely surprising for those following the company closely, since demand continues to exceed its supply -- even in light of rapidly growing production.
Tesla's guidance for 55,000 vehicles is up 74% from its 2014 deliveries of 31,655.
Musk believes weak Model S sales in China in Q4 are temporary, blaming Tesla's poor communication to consumers about charging in the region.
All of these comments are great. Particularly China's irrelevance in meeting guidance and a foray into energy storage so early. But investors should take them with a grain of salt. Musk is quite a talker. The CEO's ambitions and optimistic character sometime mean Tesla misses a launch date or has to shift priorities in a different way than the company imagined.
Still, Musk has accomplished enough to date that his comments about Tesla's plans are at least worth contemplation.