Tesla has had one hell of a week. It reported its first quarterly profit. It's brainstorming self-guided cars with Google. The stock is sizzling.
And Consumer Reports, which is not prone to gushing, said that Tesla's Model S "performed better, or just as well overall, as any other vehicle of any kind" the magazine has ever tested.
Let's just take a deep breath. Amid all the buzz, it's important to realize what Tesla has and hasn't accomplished.
Tesla seems to be developing along the lines of Porsche -- selling high-ticket, prestigious vehicles in modest volumes. If it sustains profitability, CEO Elon Musk will have created a viable automaker. Add in the fact that these are electric vehicles and you have a historic accomplishment.
But the goal of making EVs into mass-market products that people can afford remains elusive. In an industry roaring towards 83 million global sales this year, per IHS Automotive, mainstream sales are needed if EVs are ever to reduce emissions and petroleum dependency.
Tesla's plan for a third vehicle priced in the $30,000 to $35,000 range thus becomes critical, particularly because the Model S has proved to be more expensive than envisioned. In an interview at the 2009 Frankfurt auto show, Musk told Automotive News that the Model S would sell for $49,900.