TOKYO -- Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk says Japan will be the electric-car maker’s No. 2 market after the United States and that Asia will account for a third of its global sales by 2015.
Musk also said the initial batch of electric SUVs it agreed to supply to Toyota Motor Corp. will likely be made at the California plant Tesla bought from Toyota and General Motors Co.
Musk’s outlook, delivered today while dedicating the company’s first showroom in Asia, highlights his optimism in overseas demand as the company embarks on an international expansion blitz. Tesla’s Tokyo store follows outlets in such European cities as London, Paris and Monaco.
In Tokyo, Musk presented a metallic red Roadster 2.5 to Toyota President Akio Toyoda to help cement the recent alliance between the world’s largest automaker and one of its smallest.
Toyoda’s new toy came with a vanity plate sporting the Toyota chief’s name and the number 5-20, for the May date that Toyota invested $50 million in Tesla. Toyota has since said it will pay another $60 million for Tesla to develop an all-electric version of its RAV4 small SUV.
Musk said the first run of several thousand electric RAV4s, to be delivered in 2012, will likely be made at the former New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. plant operated as a joint venture between Toyota and General Motors. Tesla took over the NUMMI factory earlier this year.
“The decision at the end of the day is Toyota’s,” Musk said. “But there’s a good chance we will do final assembly of the initial fleet of RAV4 EVs at NUMMI”
Beyond those units, the RAV4 will likely be assembled at a Toyota plant, he added.
Tesla has sold about 1,300 Roadsters since launching the sports car in 2008 -- about half in the United States and the remainder mostly in Europe. Musk said Asia sales will grow in the next five years, so that Tesla’s sales are split evenly between North America, Europe and Asia.
A third Tesla model?
Expansion will likely hinge on the success of the Model S sedan Tesla plans to launch in 2012. Musk said volume for the vehicle will be around 20,000 units a year. And his ambitions are higher for a hypothetical third model to debut after the Model S: 200,000 vehicles a year.
The challenge of managing such scale is one reason that boutique Tesla tied up with Toyota, Musk said. Tesla hopes to glean some of the Japanese giant’s production and quality assurance techniques.
“We don’t yet have understanding and expertise when it comes to mass production or even limited mass production,” Musk said. “There is so much to learn, I don’t know quite where to start.”