Tesla says it will sell 5,000 Model S sedans by the end of 2012

Tesla-Motors-Model-S-sedanTesla Motors released its 2011 financial results Thursday, as well as some information on the company’s plans for 2012 and beyond. CEO Elon Musk confirmed that the highly-anticipated Model S electric sedan will be in customer’s driveways by the end of 2012.

According to Musk, Tesla will sell 5,000 Model S sedans beginning in the second half of 2012, and that no cars will be available to journalists until the first batch is delivered to customers. “We want the car to be as close to perfect as possible before we give it to any automotive journalists,” Musk said. Tesla may be using the same approach as rival Fisker, which released a small batch of Karma sedans (officially classified as prototypes by the government) to customers as a final test before the car’s full production run. A few of these pre-production Karmas did find their way into journalists’ hands.

Musk is very confident about the Model S, saying that it is a luxury car first and an electric car second. Instead of competing with other electric cars like the Nissan Leaf, Musk said the Model S will compete with high-price sedans like the Audi A6 and A8, BMW 5 and 7 series, and the Porsche Panamera.

Musk expects buyers to order $10,000 to $15,000 worth of options on their cars. That would make the Model S much more profitable than if every car sold was a base model.

Although the Model S is not quite finished, Musk also said that it is “increasingly likely” that the car will score five-star crash-safety ratings in all categories.

While the Model X crossover is the fastest selling Tesla in the company’s short history, generating $40 million in sales since the concept was unveiled last week, Musk is not concerned that it will cannibalize Model S sales, saying that Model S sales have risen because of publicity from the Model X unveiling. Tesla plans to sell both cars in China.

After the Model S and Model X reach production, Tesla plans to build a third car (the Model Z?) priced in the $30,000 range, which would make it more of a mainstream product than the luxury Model S and Model X. Musk said the company is approving this third model because it is confident that battery technology has reached the point where it is scalable to high-volume production.

The next Tesla Roadster has been pushed back by this new project; it will arrive as a 2015 model. The first-generation roadster was based on the now-defunct Lotus Elise; it is unclear which platform Tesla will use for the new one.

Will the Model S live up to Musk’s predictions? The world will find out in a few months.