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Elon Musk on Tesla’s Manufacturing Woes: “It Was Life or Death”

Musk said he doesn't care if Tesla folds — as long as the electric car succeeds.

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MICHAEL KOVAC/GETTY IMAGES/VICTOR TANGERMANN

Life or Death

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said this week that his electric car company faced an existential crisis when it ran into trouble manufacturing the Model 3, its hotly anticipated all-electric sedan.

“It was life or death,” Musk said during an interview with the CBS show 60 Minutes. “Those betting against the company were right by all conventional standards that we would fail.”

Tent City

Musk, who made his fortune as a PayPal executive before starting a series of sci-fi-inflected businesses including Tesla and spacetech company SpaceX, told 60 Minutes host Lesley Stahl that Tesla overcame those challenges with a flexible and breakneck approach to manufacturing that included setting up assembly lines in tents erected in parking lots.

When Tesla succeeded in meeting its ambitious goal of manufacturing 5,000 cars per week by the end of June, Musk said, he saw it as “an incredible American success story.”

Looking Ahead

During the same interview, the eccentric CEO also said that Tesla would consider taking over some of the five factories that GM plans to abandon as it restructures. But ultimately, he said, he’ll be happy if electric cars take over the market — even if Tesla ultimately fails.

“If somebody comes and makes a better electric car than Tesla and it’s so much better than ours that we can’t sell our cars and we go bankrupt,” he said, “I still think that’s a good thing for the world.”

READ MORE: Tesla CEO Elon Musk Welcomes GM Competition [CBS News]

More on Elon Musk: Reddit Co-founder Mocks Elon Musk’s Warnings About AI

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