Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk says he would consider locating a second automotive assembly plant in Texas.
Musk, who is fighting for legislation to allow Tesla to sell its electric vehicles directly to consumers in Texas, told Automotive News Wednesday that the company will invest more in the state if it wins the exemption.
The Texas Automobile Dealers Association is opposing Tesla's bid to amend current state law, which generally requires new vehicles to be sold by franchised dealers.
In addition to investing "tens of millions of dollars" in more stores and service centers, Tesla could start looking at a plant location in Texas as soon as three years from now, Musk said.
"When we do establish a manufacturing plant outside of California, Texas would be a leading candidate for that," Musk said.
While additional stores and service centers would mean several hundred new jobs for Texans, a new assembly plant would mean thousands of jobs, Musk said.
Tesla currently has two store locations and two service locations in Texas. But the staffers at the stores, located in high-end shopping districts in Houston and Austin, are prevented by current law from engaging in any sales activity. They can't share pricing or offer test drives. The service centers can't evaluate vehicles for warranty work.
If released from those current operating restrictions, Texas likely would become Tesla's second-largest market, Musk said. He projected that Tesla could sell 1,500 to 2,000 vehicles in Texas in 2014 if the exemption is granted.
"If we were allowed to go direct, I think we would make Texas on par with California in terms of emphasis," Musk said.
Musk said he's a believer in localizing production to minimize logistics cost. A second plant could also make additional models. He floated the idea of making a pickup truck in Texas.
"I have this idea for a really advanced electric truck that has the performance of a sports car but actually more towing power and more carrying capacity than a gasoline or diesel truck of comparable size," Musk said. "That could be really cool, and I think that would probably make sense to do that at a new plant."
Musk said he has a design in mind for the truck, but it probably wouldn't come to market for another four or five years.