Tesla Motors and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk speaking at the Automotive World News Congress

Tesla Motors 'not profitable until 2020'

Electric vehicle trend-setter Tesla Motors may not become profitable before 2020, the company’s CEO Elon Musk has said.

Speaking at a car industry conference in Detroit, Musk expressed his confidence the firm will hike up production to "at least a few million a year" in the next ten years from a modest 40,000 today.

After a stellar year, which saw the value of Tesla’s shares skyrocketing by 48 per cent, the company hit an obstacle when sales data revealed its results in China, one of the key markets, fell short of expectations in the fourth quarter of 2014.

Musk attributed the poor results to "a misperception by city-dwelling Chinese consumers that they might have difficulty charging their electric cars".

"We'll fix the China issue and be in pretty good shape probably in the middle of the year," he said.

Tesla shares fell 7 per cent in after-hours trade to $190.22 from a close of $204.25 on the Nasdaq.

Musk, who gained worldwide fame with his private space venture SpaceX, said Tesla Motors aims to become the first car-maker to bring a fully autonomous car to the market, although it’s not likely to happen before 2020.

The company announced earlier it will start introducing "autopilot" features for its Model S sedan in the near future.

Musk revealed the firm hopes to launch its delayed Model X sport utility vehicle this summer and is working on a mass-market Model 3, which will be key for meeting the million sales goal proclaimed by Musk.

Model 3 should go on sale in 2017.

Although a media darling, Tesla Motors still remains a rather marginal player in the global car market. However, reaching the million sales target by 2025 would put the company on par with such as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Musk told his audience at the Automotive News World Congress that "we could make money now if we weren't investing" in new technology and vehicles such as the Model 3 and expanded retail networks.

On another topic, Musk said he was open to partnerships with retailers to sell Tesla vehicles, but not until after the company no longer has production bottlenecks.

"Before considering taking on franchised dealers, we also have to establish (more of) our own stores," he said. Musk said "we will consider" franchising "if we find the right partner." He did not elaborate, but said Tesla "is not actively seeking any partnerships" with other manufacturers "because our focus is so heavily on improving our production" in Fremont.

Last year, Tesla delivered about 33,000 Model S sedans. Musk said the current wait for delivery is one to four months. Tesla already has pre-sold every Model S that it plans to build in 2015, Musk said.

He said he did not see the Chevrolet Bolt, a low-priced electric car planned by General Motors Co for 2017, as a potential competitor to he Model 3.

"It's not going to affect us if someone builds a few hundred thousand vehicles," he said in reference to the Bolt, which GM expects to price to compete directly with the Model 3.

But "I'd be pleased to see other manufacturers make electric cars," he said.

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