Can a million dollars hold Elon Musks' feet to the fire? That's the value of a bet that Wall Street Journal auto journalist and all-around interesting guy Dan Neil and the Tesla Motors CEO reportedly have going over the release of the upcoming Model S.

According to Green Car Reports, the bet hinges on Neil's 2009 comment that the Model S is "ambitious" and that Musk's promised delivery date of late 2012 was, "an audacious timeline that makes many in the car industry roll their eyes." Musk, also a bit of a boisterous one, apparently emailed Neil in 2009 to say: You wanna bet? The exact emails have apparently been lost, but GCR says the details, according to Neil, are as follows. For Musk to win, the Model S:
  • Needs to start series production and be delivered to the first paying customers by the end of 2012.
  • Have to be certified by NHTSA with a four- or five-star safety rating and it has to have seven seats.
  • Needs to be priced at $57,400 (for the base model with the 160-mile range), $67,400 (230 miles) and $87,400 (300 miles).
These are all targets that Tesla itself announced, so Neil is simply asking the company to follow through on its promises. There is one final sticking point, and for this we'll quote GCR directly:

[The Model S] has to have a battery pack that allows en-route swapping at a highway roadside station, similar to the Better Place battery swapping scheme.

We hope, for Musk's sake, that someone got their wires crossed here. As far as we know, the Model S was never supposed to have Better Place-style batter swap capability. Instead, the plan has always been, "When [Model S drivers] take an occasional two-way long distance trip, they'll get a replacement pack and then pick up their original one on the way back," with the swaps done at Tesla dealerships.

We have to assume Musk would like this clarified, too, since Neil claims that Musk will have to donate a million dollars to Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) if Tesla doesn't hit these targets. If Neil loses, he's willing to donate a more modest, journalist-level $1,000 to MSF. Which side of the bet would you rather be on?