Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk bet big on his electric car startup back in 2008, investing his last $20 million into the company--and now he's calling on the auto industry to put that same kind of faith in plug-in vehicles.
"Electric cars are just fundamentally better," Musk said at this year's Automotive News World Congress. "I think that's where the future is going to go, but it's only going to go there if the big car companies make risky decisions to do electric vehicles. I hope they do, and we're trying to be as helpful as we can be."
Musk spoke at the event in Michigan this week despite the state's anti-Tesla stance. Michigan recently passed a law that stops Tesla from selling or display its vehicles at its own showrooms in the state.
Tesla is a hot property in the auto world even though established automakers like General Motors and Toyota oversell it many, many times over. The Palo Alto, Calif.-headquartered company is still a one-model carmaker and last year sold around a 30th of 1 percent of the about 100 million vehicles delivered annually.
Musk has long said that Tesla's mark will be made in innovation, even opening up the company's patents to encourage other automakers to take on electric vehicles.
"Most of the good that Tesla will accomplish is by cutting a path through the jungle to show what can be done with electric cars," Musk said at the Automotive News World Congress. "The significance we will have is the degree to which we do force other companies to accelerate their plans."
The Silicon Valley icon maintains a level of control over Tesla vehicle design that isn't often seen. In one example, Musk removed and then reinstated rear reading lights in the Model S after a comment from one of his five sons.
"This is the stupidest car in the world," Musk remembered one of his sons saying of the sedan when he tried to read a book and discovered it didn't have rear lighting. The CEO of Tesla and SpaceX had assumed that people would be reading on tablets or other devices that are already lit.
After Musk's son objected, Tesla's engineers were told to put the rear reading lights back.