Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) CEO Elon Musk had plenty of interesting things to say this week. He wowed Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) owners by announcing that the company was tripling the number of Supercharger stations, offering drivers free Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) battery charging options in more locations. He also teased that more details would be forthcoming on his “hyperloop” project that would help transport people faster and cheaper than bullet trains or planes.
However, the one comment that truly turned heads was Musk’s forecast — at both the AllThingsD conference and later on CNBC — that Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) will put out a sedan in three to four years that costs half as much as today’s Model S.
Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) now commands an $11 billion market cap after seeing its stock nearly triple in three months. That valuation doesn’t seem sustainable for a company putting out a niche car with a $70,000 price tag. For Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) to go mainstream, it needs to tackle the “range anxiety” fears — and it’s addressing that in part through the Supercharger expansion — and lower prices.
The original Tesla Roadster cost twice as much as the Model S. Why wouldn’t the next car — outside of next year’s Model X, which will run at comparable pricing to the current Model S — go for half as much?
This could be Tesla’s defining moment. Right now, Tesla’s Model S is a lot like Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)‘s original iPhone. The consumer-tech giant’s first smartphone turned heads in 2007 as the class act in a new product category. However, the $600 price tag was too much for most potential buyers. It wasn’t until the iPhone was available for as little as $200 through a subsidized wireless contract a year later that it truly took off. Even that doesn’t seem to be enough sometimes, and half of the iPhones selling these days are the older models that retail for $100 and even $200 less with a two-year contract. Even now there’s pressure on Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) to put out an even cheaper device so it can cash in on overseas markets, where carriers can’t afford to be as generous with the subsidizing.