white tesla model s

Elon Musk is the brash CEO of Tesla Motors, and he has been known to make some bold statements. Whether he's talking about the price of li-ion batteries in the coming years or when his own company would deliver the now-available Model S all-electric sedan – to say nothing about leaving the planet with SpaceX – he thinks big. He's usually entirely optimistic, but recently he was downright cautious. Speaking at the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas, he said that:

The challenge that Tesla faces over the next few months is scaling production enough to achieve a certain gross margin on our product so we can be cash flow positive. That's extremely important. If we're unable to do that, we'll enter the grave yard with all the other car company startups of the last 90 years.

Sounds like Musk is saying that if Tesla can't ramp up production to meet certain internal targets (we'd guess something around the previously mentioned 5,000 units by the end of 2012), then the company could fold. As GigaOM put it, getting to 5,000 in the next four-and-a-half months, is "like the Monster Truck version of ramp ups: totally extreme." Combine this drive with the pressure to not make any mistakes, and you've got the ingredients for another Musk quote. From the Summit, he said, "It'll definitely be a very tough road over the next 6 months. We can't afford to make a lot of mistakes."

Six months, four and a half months, a few months, what's the difference? The real question is whether Tesla can achieve the goals that Musk himself says are vital to keep the company out of the automotive graveyard.
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