Tesla Model 3 is Elon Musk's next huge bet (with $5.5B more of his own cash)

Mister Musk makes merry with next ’leccy auto
[You're fired -Ed.]

Tesla is close to launching the “compelling” Model 3, so CEO Elon Musk decides to exercise more of his countless pre-IPO options. He's putting his cash where his mouth is—all $53.5 million of it—and holding onto the stock.

So why does he want to own 21% of the company? This new electric car will claim over 200 miles of battery range and start at $35,000 (even before government kickback). If true, Musk clearly wants this to be a no-brainer for the mass market.

In IT Blogwatch, bloggers see the zero-point. Not to mention: Hasselhoff...

Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment.
[Developing story: Updated 1:50 pm PT with more comment]

What is this Model 3 of which you speak? Tom Randall explains—Affordable Tesla Model 3 coming in 2016, small crossover expected to follow:

Tesla is gearing up for its biggest-ever unveiling. [It's] supposed to take the company from 50,000 vehicle sales last year to 500,000 in 2020.

The Model 3 sedan [is] "going to be probably the most profound car that we make," Elon Musk said. [It] is now the company's top priority.

Production will start in 2017. ... The base model will cost $35,000, reportedly before government incentives. ... Expect a range of at least 200 miles.

[It] will probably come equipped with the sensors for autonomous driving.

Musk originally wanted to call it the Model E, in order to spell out..."SEXY" with his full lineup of Model names.

With all this investment going on, Musk must be broke, right? Wrong, reports Claudia Assis—Elon Musk exercises Tesla options, pays $50 million tax bill with own cash:

Musk [used] more than $50 million of his own money to cover the taxes on shares that cost him less than $7 apiece. [He] now owns slightly more than 28.9 million shares...worth more than $5.5 billion.

Musk also used cash to pay the exercise price...slightly more than $3.5 million.

Wow, so what's this about an autonomous mode? Seth Weintraub —The chip guru who built Apple’s Ax microprocessors joins Tesla:

Tesla this month quietly hired high-profile microprocessor engineer Jim Keller as Vice President of Autopilot Hardware Engineering.

Keller left...AMD late last year after leading the team developing the upcoming Zen processor architecture. ... Before that he...played a major role in developing the...A4 and A5 processors, which powered most of Apple’s mobile devices from 2010 to 2012.

The role [at Tesla] isn’t necessarily to focus on in-house microprocessors, although the company needs plenty of processing power for its ‘Autopilot’ program. ... In the few months since the release of the system [in] October, Tesla lost quite a few Autopilot engineers to other companies.

Hmm, Tesla hiring Apple alumni. Cromwell Schubarth explains why that sounds familiar, in Tesla puts key Apple chip designer in charge of autopilot hardware:

Since Apple started secretly working on automobiles, there has been something of talent war between it and Tesla.

Many experts believe the key to becoming a major competitor...will be in the software and systems they use, not in...looks, drivetrains or powertrains. ... Apple has yet to officially confirm that it is working on developing a car [but] Musk says it's hardly a secret.

Apple lost a key executive...this week [in] Steve Zadesky. ... He headed the group working on the car for the past two years.

So Tesla is unlike traditional car companies. We get that, but Bored Elon Musk has a new angle:

Imagine if car companies spent all their advertising money on R&D?

(I did).

Update: But what about that historically low oil price? Musk covers that angle and more with Kristie Lu Stout—Elon Musk wants to build cars in China:

Even if the economics of oil favor gasoline, I think the Model 3 still does well. It’s more [of a problem] where there is little to no differentiation between the gasoline version of something and the electric version. If...the electric version doesn’t have a compelling economic proposition, then you’ve got a real issue.

I do feel pretty optimistic about the Model 3. The key...is higher volume and lower price. It is a smaller car and without quite as many bells and whistles as the Model S...but the goal is to have a very compelling, affordable...mass-market electric vehicle, and I feel pretty good about that.

And Finally...

David Hasselhoff: Singing on the Berlin Wall in 1989 (Oxford Union)

You have been reading IT Blogwatch by Richi Jennings, who curates the best bloggy bits, finest forums, and weirdest websites… so you don’t have to. Catch the key commentary from around the Web every morning. Hatemail may be directed to @RiCHi or itbw@richi.uk.
Opinions expressed may not represent those of Computerworld. Ask your doctor before reading. Your mileage may vary. E&OE.

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