Elon Musk says Tesla would consider buying idled GM plants, takes another swing at the SEC on '60 Minutes'

Key Points
  • Tesla CEO Elon Musk says Tesla would consider buying unused GM plants.
  • In a wide-ranging interview on CBS' "60 Minutes," Musk also reiterates his lack of respect for the SEC.
  • He says he uses Twitter to express himself.
Elon Musk
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Tesla would consider buying the factories that General Motors intends to idle, CEO Elon Musk said in an interview that aired Sunday on CBS' "60 Minutes."

"It's possible that we would be interested. If they were going to sell a plant or not use it that we would take it over," he said.

In a wide-ranging interview with Lesley Stahl, Musk made no apologies for his erratic behavior over the summer and reiterated his lack of respect for the Securities and Exchange Commission, which sued him in September for allegedly defrauding investors after tweeting that he wanted to take the company public at $420 a share and had "funding secured." He didn't and pulled back on those plans a few weeks later.

"Nobody's perfect," he said.

Musk acknowledged that he was "somewhat impulsive," adding that he "didn't really want to try to adhere to some CEO template." He stoked controversy all summer with his erratic behavior, taunting the SEC, calling a diver in the Thai cave rescue a "pedo" and capping the summer by appearing to smoke pot on the Joe Rogan podcast.

"I'm just being me. I mean, I was certainly under insane stress and crazy, crazy hours. But the system would have failed if I was truly erratic," Musk said.

The SEC forced Musk to step down as chairman of the board for three years. The company named Robyn Denholm, who was already on the board, as chairwoman.

"I want to be clear: I do not respect the SEC," Musk said. "I do not respect them." But he said he was adhering to the agreement because he respects the U.S. justice system.

He scoffed at the idea that Denholm was put in place to keep him in line. "Yeah. It, it's not realistic in the sense that I am the largest shareholder in the company. And I can just call for a shareholder vote and get anything done that I want," Musk said.

He said he does not want to return to the role of chairman. "I actually just prefer to have no titles at all."

Tesla has struggled to ramp up production of its much hyped Model 3 midsize sedan. The company resorted to building a second assembly line inside a tent-like structure next to its main assembly plant in Fremont, California. The decision, like many Tesla has made, was ridiculed by some in the industry.

The last-minute push increased production by 50 percent, Musk told CBS.

"Those betting against the company were right by all conventional standards that we would fail," he said, "but they just did not count on this unconventional situation of creating a second assembly in the parking lot in a tent."

Musk said the long-awaited $35,000 version of the Model 3 will "probably" be available in five to six months. That is the price of the vehicle Tesla originally promised would be an electric sedan for the masses when it was first unveiled in March 2016. Since then, however, Tesla has only made higher-priced versions of the car.

Musk admitted he is notorious for missing deadlines.

"Well, I mean punctuality's not my strong suit. I think, uh well, why would people think that if I've been late on all the other models, that'd I'd be suddenly on time with this one," he said.

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GM's decision to idle plants in Ohio, Michigan, Maryland and Ontario and eliminate 14,000 jobs has caused anger and worry among lawmakers, labor leaders and people in the regions that depend on the factories for work. Some say GM's decision is a necessary step to ensure the company's future as it grapples with changing consumer tastes, new technologies and new potential competitors, including Tesla.

The possible plant closures present an opportunity to Tesla. It wouldn't be the first time Tesla bought a GM plant. The Tesla Factory in Fremont, California is a former GM plant that closed in 2010 but reopened later that year under Musk.

Under the terms of the SEC settlement, Musk had to pay a $20 million fine and step down as chairman for at least three years. Tesla also put in place a system for monitoring Musk's statements to the public about the company, whether on Twitter, blog posts or any other medium.

Musk told CBS the only tweets that need to be approved are ones that can move the stock price. He said he uses Twitter to express himself. "Some people use their hair," he said, "I used Twitter."