Interview With Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk

One Silicon Valley's most innovative entrepreneurs on his new Tesla electric car, whether we should bail out the Big Three, and the world's most powerful laser.

If you were CEO of GM, what would you do?

First would be to cut costs. Then try to build a compelling product. The big automakers are bound by so many financial constraints, and they are mired in management structures and procedures from half a century ago. It may be time for new companies to replace them.

Bankruptcy or bailout?

It’s problematic to let GM and Chrysler liquidate. I’m somewhat Libertarian but these are messed up times.

Are you seeing any bright ideas coming from out of the car companies?

There seems to be a pretty big emphasis on hybrids, since that allows companies to tap the $25 billion fund providing low interest loans for reducing carbon.

What about good ideas from government?

The best idea is to tax gasoline. We are going to see gas prices rise over the next decade. We can either raise the money now domestically or transfer the wealth to places like Venezuela and the Middle East down the road.

Are you worried about increased competition from China in the electric car market?

From what we’ve seen from China, their electric cars are not very sophisticated—although they could become sophisticated. Right now, nothing we’ve seen compares with Tesla in terms of energy density, acceleration, reliability, refinement of control, and safety.

Are you comfortable with all the allusions to Henry Ford?

When we debut our mass-produced electric car designed from scratch to be electric, I don’t think there will have been a more historic release since the Model T.

Any new SpaceX contracts?

NASA is our biggest customer, but so are the countries of Sweden and Malaysia. We are launching a Malaysian satellite later this month.

Do you think Google is going to buy Twitter?

If I were Google I would do it. I think it’s a smart move.

What is Solar City?

It’s the largest provider of solar powered systems to small and medium sized homes and businesses. The goal is drive the cost of solar power down as low as possible and make it competitive with fossil fuel power. We’re not focused on the cell but rather the end relationship with the customer. We’re like the Dell computer of solar panels.

What’s the most interesting topic you’re thinking about this week?

They’ve built the world’s most powerful laser in California, but it’s gone relatively unreported.

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