Elon Musk on 60 Minutes: ''I didn't really think Tesla would be successful.''

The CBS news program “60 Minutes” came under a lot of fire for its piece on the “Cleantech Crash.”

So perhaps to make amends, the program was back Sunday with a glowing profile of Elon Musk, the CEO of both Tesla Motors and SpaceX.

Close watchers of Musk will not learn anything new in the 13-minute segment by correspondent Scott Pelley. And while the Tesla Model S is silent, the show added engine noise. That makes no sense.

Pelley asked Musk how he describes himself.

“I usually describe myself as an engineer, that’s basically what I’ve been doing since I was a kid,” said Musk. “I’m interested in things that change the world or that affect the future and wondrous, new technology where you see it and you’re like, ‘Wow, how did that even happen? How is that possible?’ ”

Musk says he never thought Tesla would be successful, but that “we at least could address the false perception that people have that an electric car had to be ugly and slow and boring like a golf cart.”

Musk joked about being able to drive the Model S even in the event of a zombie apocalypse, a line that he’s used before.

Musk’s mother Maye, sister Tosca and brother Kimbal appear briefly. Kimbal, who is on the board of Tesla, says his older brother’s mind “just needs to be constantly fulfilled. And the problems that he takes on therefore need to become more and more complex over time in order to keep him interested.”

There’s a bit about how 2008 was a lousy year: Tesla was hemorrhaging money, the American economy was in the throes of the recession and Space X’s first three rocket launches had failed to reach orbit. Musk also filed for divorce. As Christmas approached, Musk felt like he was capable of having a nervous breakdown.

But Space X’s fourth flight was flawless. NASA called with the news that Space X had been awarded a $1.5 billion contract. And Tesla closed a round of funding in the final hours of Christmas Eve.

Musk hopes SpaceX will be the company that brings humanity to Mars.

Elon Musk on 60 Minutes

Dana Hull Dana Hull (252 Posts)

Dana Hull covers clean technology and energy policy for the San Jose Mercury News. She often writes about electric vehicles, the smart grid, the solar industry and California energy policy, from RPS goals to Gov. Jerry Brown's big dreams for distributed generation.