That is water.. tastes like water. Well, I mean, diet coke is good. There's something that they put in that stuff that is - ya know, you never get sick of it for some reason. It's some infernal ingredient.. I'm trying to cut down these days. There was probably times when I had like eight a day or something ridiculous. I think these days it's probably one or two. So, it's not anything crazy. [and coffee?] Usually two a day. [but not water so much?] Not really. I used to have so much coffee and Diet Coke that I'd get really wired and then I'd get over-caffeinated and it wouldn't be good. I'm cutting down to, I think, more reasonable portions these days. [You work a lot of hours.] Yeah. It's really varied quite a bit over time. These days it's probably 80, 85 hours per week. For a while there it was over 100 hours per week and that's just - that's a very high amount of pain. The difficulty and pain of work hours really increased exponentially. It's not linear. When the financial crisis hit in 2008/2009, it was just every day, seven days a week, morning till night and dream about work. It was terrible. Bad dreams. [What time do you get up?] For me, usually, it's about 7, but I got to bed late. Usually I go to bed around 1am or so. [Do you have breakfast?] That also varies a lot. I think it's probably true that having a good breakfast is a good idea, but usually I don't have time for that. Sometimes it's made for me, but probably half the time I don't have any breakfast. I'll have a coffee or something like that.. and a Mars bar, sure.. but I'm trying to cut down on sweet stuff. I think I probably should have an omelet and a coffee or something like that. That seems like the right thing and sometimes I do have that. Lunch is usually served to me during a meeting and I finish it in five minutes. It's a bad habit. Dinner is where the calories really come into play. If I have dinner meetings - they're the worst, you eat enough for two people at those things. You have the appetizer and the main course and all that sort of stuff. Business dinners are like the thing that really - where I probably eat way too much. I certainly could be slimmer I think. I work-out once or twice a week. I mean, yeah, once or twice. I should do it more often, for sure. [What do you do?] Run through the forest? No. I usually just do a little bit on the treadmill or lifting some weights, I suppose.
[Is Tesla and SpaceX 100% you?] Of course definitely not. I certainly have a strong influence, but there are many people at these companies. SpaceX has four thousand people now. Tesla we just passed ten thousand people today. There's a lot of people who have had a huge impact and influence on building the companies. I've had more of an influence than anyone else, but it's a big team effort from a lot of talented people. [Are you looking for other CEOs?] Not for SpaceX. The plan I had when we created Tesla was I thought I would allocate maybe 20 or 30% of my time to Tesla and then for Solar City I figured 5%, 10% of my time, that sort of thing. Solar City turned out to be true. In fact, even better than that. It probably takes me less than 5% of my time on Solar City. Tesla ended up being much more. Unfortunately the first CEO didn't work out and then I got a temporary - I mean, I tried pretty hard not to be the CEO. Like, I could have been the CEO from day one. I feel that people sometimes don't realize that, but I just wasn't able to find the right person. In the case of Solar City, there's a great team that runs it, but it's really hard to find someone who can grow a company. Running a company in steady state is much easier than growing a company. With Tesla, as more people joined the team, investors would ask me how long am I going to be CEO and I said, well, I'm committed to be CEO through the high volume production vehicle. Probably three or four years, but at that point I would then have to consider what makes sense. I mean, "I would never leave Tesla ever, but I may not be CEO forever. No-one should be CEO forever." [Is there someone who could do the job?] No. There's no plans or anything like that. Right now our plan is just to - for sure, I'm CEO through the production of the Model 3 and the Gigafactory, and then evaluate.
[Question about the price of the Model 3.] 35. [On the European market?] Well, it might be less. It depends on what the exchange rate is, of course. It's always a bit tricky. In the US, the prices are quoted before sales tax and in Europe it's with VAT. There's like a 20% VAT and all that stuff. It would probably be like 30,000 euros, or a little bit less than that. [It will be on the market in two years time?] I'd say three.
[Question about skills the CEO would have to have.] When I interview someone I really just ask them to tell me the story of their career and what are some of the tougher problems that they dealt with, how they dealt with those, and how they made decisions are key transition points. Usually that's enough for me to get a very good gut feel about someone and what I'm really looking for is evidence of exceptional ability. Did they face really difficult problems and overcome them? and then of course you want to make sure that if there was some significant accomplishment, were they really responsible or was someone else more responsible, and usually if they're a person who has had to struggle with a problem, they really understand it, and they don't forget - it's really difficult. You can ask them very detailed questions about it and they'll know the answer, whereas the person who was not truly responsible for that accomplishment will not know the details. There's no need even to have a college degree, at all, or even high school. I mean, if somebody graduated from a great university that may be an indication that they will be capable of great things but it's not necessarily the case. If you look at, say, people like Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Steve Jobs, these guys didn't graduate from college but if you had a chance to hire them, of course that would be a great idea. Really, I'm looking just for evidence of exceptional ability and if there's a track record of exception achievement then it's likely that will continue into the future.
[What do you have in common with other great CEOs?] Well, those are pretty different personalities - between Gates and Jobs and Ellison. I think all three of those were technologists but with different types of skills. Jobs was obviously very good with aesthetics, and he understood technology of course, but he also understood what people wanted even when they didn't know themselves, and he wasn't afraid to break boundaries. Gates would probably be better at raw engineering and technology than Jobs but not as good on aesthetics. For all these guys, they're obviously very driven, and they're very talented and they're able to attract great people to build a company. The ability to attract and motivate great people is critical to the success of a company, because a company is just a group of people that are assembled to create a product or service. That's the purpose of a company. We can all sometimes forget this elementary truth. If you're able to get great people to join the company, work together towards the common goal and have a relentless sense of perfection about that goal, then you will end up with a great product, and if you have a great product lots of people will buy it, and then the company will be successful. It's pretty straightforward really.
[Is there a talent you'd like to have that you don't?] I suppose I'd like to play a musical instrument, that'd be cool. I can whistle. I kinda have like a whole bunch of songs that kind of randomly. I just whistle randomly. Please don't ask me to whistle.. like, I can whistle but it's maybe not the coolest instrument to play. "I can whistle Pachelbel's Canon, which is a tricky one, but I'm not going to whistle for you now because that'd be too embarrassing."
[How would you describe yourself?] Well I mean "I seem to have a high innate drive". That's been true even since I was a little kid. I really had a very strong Drive. Sort of did all sorts of risky things that I like why do I do those things.. they are crazy.. I think that's very helpful. And "I care a lot about the truth of things and trying to understand the truth of things. I think that's important". If you are gonna come up with some solutions then truth is really really important. It's difficult to come up with things to praise for oneself. There is good and bad here. I think like sometimes they're just like the things that seem quite clear and obvious to me. I don't understand why they aren't so obvious to everyone.
[So will you describe yourself as fearless?] I wouldn't say I'm fearless. In fact I think I feel fear quite strongly. But if what we're doing is I think important enough then I just override the fear. But it's not as if that I don't feel. I feel it more strongly than I would like. It really depends on the stakes. If the stakes are high -- really important -- then I know we'll overcome the fear and just do it anyway. Essentially I mean "drive overrides fear". But I feel the fear it's kind of annoying. I wish it wouldn't have lasted. I think all these introspective questions are interesting. I don't get asked about these very often. And then like I try to think like what is like an evident and accurate reply. It's hard to evaluate yourself on these things.
[Which company you found was the most risky at the start?] Well probably SpaceX. I thought it had the lowest chance of success. I mean I thought both Tesla and SpaceX would fail at the beginning. I expected to lose it. Well technically what I thought was well I'll take half the money from PayPal and if I lose half of it that's okay. But then of course the companies encounter difficulties and then I have a choice so that either let the company die or put all the money into the companies. And so really do you want the companies to die? So I put all the money in the companies yeah and then I had to borrow money for friends to pay learning expenses.
[What went through you mind at the end of 2008?] It was a terrible time. Yeah everything was going wrong at once. Three rocket failures in a row beginning and Tesla financing around was falling apart. Solar City was having difficulties. Getting divorced. It was really terrible. I was I was very sad. It took a while for everything to comeback -- almost until the end of 2008. The fourth launch worked, that was all the money we had. Nothing more. In fact originally I budgeted I thought okay we can do three survived three failures so take like we just barely barely scrape together enough to do a fourth launch. And then at the end of 2008 we got a big NASA contract literally on December 23rd. It went from like really terrible - I remember that Sunday before Christmas in 2008 thinking like that this is the closest I've ever come to a nervous breakdown. I can never thought I would ever be someone who could have a nervous breakdown and I did. It was like I could see it. I was in within sight of it. This sucks. This is terrible. And then and the next morning NASA called. Literally next morning, I thought they'd all gone home for the holidays. I didn't think there was any chance of a call a few days before Christmas. People are on vacations.
[So what went through your mind when you got the call?] That was awesome. I actually said to the NASA guys that I love you. That was yeah the Monday morning. I think it was the Tuesday night or the Wednesday night was the which when we closed the financing round for Tesla and that was like 6:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve. It was the last hour of the last day when it was possible. And we would have gone bankrupt a few days after Christmas if that was not closed.
[What was your best idea ever?] This is tricky. I suppose coming to North America was my best idea because I think these things would not have been accomplished almost anywhere else. It's really hard to start a company. But you know in particularly, California Silicon Valley is very conducive to startup companies. Whenever I read books in South Africa it would seem like the cutting edge of technology was in Silicon Valley and so that I wanted to move move to this mythical place.
[Are there things you regret having done off I'm not having done so far?] Well there's there's lots of things when life is short and there's lots of things that could be done that one can't necessarily do. These really are introspective questions. I think I'm overall I think I'm pretty pretty happy with where things are. Things are in a good place right now. I'd like to it looking ahead. I'd like to see humanity go beyond Earth and have people on Mars that would be really great and to see widespread adoption of electric vehicles and renewable energy. These are great things. It would be really really cool.
[But is there like a business decision which you regret like what in retrospect you should have never done?] I should have bitten the bullet and been CEO Tesla from the beginning. That would have been the smart move. Because we ended up having to essentially recapitalize the company and went through a lot of grief. So there would have been a wise move. In hindsight, of course, you can judge a decision in the past. Tesla was essentially built on to false ideas. One of which was that we would be able to use the Lotus Elise chassis to minimize the cost of creating electric vehicle. The other one was that we used the technology from AC Propulsion a small company in California for the electric powertrain.
[So you won't do the same mistake again and started from from zero?] Well we actually use a lot of components from other companies so it's like the you know Bosch is a supplier of the ultra-long range ultrasonics and the radar. The whole camera assembly and everything we do the camera assembly which we use a mobile ID chip. But with all of the software for integrating, we do those at Tesla.
[You told me that you wanted to die on Mars?] I guess scattering the ashes on Mars would be cool. The whole route sort of retired on Mars thing was like it was like an reporter asking a question six years ago or something. I saidwell I'm not sure I'll ever retire completely but if I were to retire somewhere then Mars would be a good way to go. In ideal circumstance I'd make one trip to Mars come back to Earth and then and then when it's time to where you get really old then go back to Mars when I'm like 75 or something and then you die there.. seems like a good choice.. you're gonna die anywhere why not die on Mars?
[Have you gone to the space already?] No
[Do you want to?] Sure. I'll probably go there in like maybe 3 or 4 years.
[What will happen first the Hyperloop tube from San Francisco to LA or the first men on Mars?] I think the Hyperloop is more likely to happen first. Well it's a good question. If you say that particular route I'm not sure because there are all sorts of constraints in getting permits to build. But I think I would be I think there's going to be some company a group that creates a Hyperloop but it may be a different route. I know there's one company that's looking closely at the Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Because that's quite a popular trip . And it's much easier to make that trip yeah make that route work.
[What makes you happy?] Well I think if things are going well with family and things going well at work then I'm happy. If either one of them is not going then I'm well either half unhappy or completely unhappy. I think that's generally true. If things are going well on person life and work life then one is happy.
[In terms of happiness, how do you like burningman?] I was good yeah I mean it's my 14th time. So yeah so it's always good. Catch people to come and check it out so I've been there this year. It's crazy it's like life-changing.
[Have you have you ever thought about building an art car?] Yea sure. I've done three art cars. One was actually both bolts on lip this is probably ten years ago was built on an Oldsmobile and it went by an old Automobile with a big wraparound couch over the hood until you're sitting on top of the engine driving backwards. So that was kind of a fun. Old car broke down a lot of course. It improved a lot.
[James Bond submarine transformational car?] The James Bond car. The Lotus Esprit submarine is it's in the Tesla design studio. Currently it's just sitting there. I'm hopefully gonna do at some point. We're going to create a sort of a replica but not quite because the James Bond car is not quite technically possible to be made into a submarine because the fins are right where the wheels are. That doesn't fit, it's not physically possible to do the transmission. But if you scale it up by about 10% and you move the fins just a little bit more towards the outer edges so that they're not like sitting right in front of the wheels then you can make a work. It's probably good to preserve the original movie art of the of the original car. Yea so can make it work as a transformation car with those constraints. So it actually looked very similar. You'd have to look closely to see if it's different. It'd be fun to drive the submarine car on the beach.
[Do you own other old cars?] I own two gasoline cars. Not that many people know know about these. One is a series 167 e type Jaguar roadster. That was the first car I bought when I actually had any money. In fact, when the my first company received an investment, the venture capitalists gave me and my brother of $40,000bonus and I spent thirty five thousand dollars on this car. It broke down on the way on the way back. It was very sad. I was like damn it. I didn't even bake it home. When I was about 17 I was given a book of convertibles. I thought if I could have afforded one of these cars in the book.. There were there were two that I liked the most. one was the Gullwing Mercedes but there's no way I could afford it. It was like millions of dollars. The other was the e-type Jaguar.
[But you haven't bought it yet now.] I think it's a great design. Really great. It partly inspires the Model X design. That might be a good one to buy at some point. The Patiala car that I've got is a Model T that a friend of my important gave me. Those things are hard to drive. If you try to drive a metal Model T.. it's not easy. The controls are all totally different. There's no gas pedal. You change the throttle. It's a stick on the steering wheel.