NEW YORK -- For more than a century, automakers have tried and failed to build a popular electric car.
Tesla Motors is now promising that an affordable one is on the way. Its first car, the Tesla Model S, is now rated safest in the world. The carmaker, it seems, may have plugged into a formula that works.
Tesla's Model S electric car has often been seen as a novelty, a cutting-edge toy for the rich, but America's youngest car company is enjoying a run of good news that has nothing to do with being the new kid on the assembly line.
Tube travel: Elon Musk joining crowded field of inventors looking to redefine speedy transport
Special Section: Powering the Future
In a recent interview with CBS News' Ben Tracy, Musk said he's really "proud of the fact that we've gotten the safety to where it is."
This week, chief executive officer Elon Musk announced the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has given his Model S sedan the highest safety rating in its history of testing cars. Musk said, "When we did the roof crush test ... it got to four times the weight of the car and then the machine broke, so the, literally, the roof, the thing that's supposed to crush the car, broke instead of the car."
Speaking further about the safety rating, Musk said, "That's incredibly important to me because, my kids drive in the car every day, my friends drive in the car every day, I really couldn't live with myself if there was something that I could've done that, that would've saved them, and I didn't do it."
Earlier this month, Tesla posted its second consecutive profitable quarter, more than doubling its operating profit from the first quarter of 2013. And then, last fall, the Tesla Model S was named Motor Trend's 2013 Car of the Year. It was the first time in the 64-year history of the prestigious honor that the winning car did not run on gasoline.
"I'm not trying to be disruptive for the sake of being disruptive," Musk replied. "That's not making people's lives better, but in the case of oil-based transport, there's no choice, we've got to disrupt that, we've got to have sustainable means of transportation."
It's a long way from 2008, when the fledgling company almost went bankrupt. Its critics called Tesla a house of cards that would collapse due to the lack of electric car charging stations and an unproven driving record.
Jessica Caldwell, of the car information Web site Edmunds.com, said, "I think what Tesla and Elon Musk are trying to do is go by those criticisms one-by-one and to very methodically address those: do we have good performance? 'Yes, Motor Trend says that we did.' Do we have good safety? 'Yes, (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) says that we are a very safe car'."