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Tesla CEO: Model S to be 'platform' for other cars

The California plant, where Tesla and Toyota will jointly build electric vehicles, will also manufacture "multiple variations" of the Model S electric sedan.

The automobiles at the center of an announcement between Toyota and Tesla Motors are a jointly developed electric vehicle and the latter's Model S electric sedan. But the longer term plan is to develop multiple variations of the Model S at the same site, according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

The two companies said Thursday that Toyota will invest $50 million in the electric carmaker and jointly manufacture electric vehicles at the recently closed New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. factory, known as Nummi, which had been a joint venture between Toyota and General Motors.

The Tesla Model S: not just a car, but a platform. Tesla Motors

Tesla is purchasing the Nummi facility in Fremont, Calif., to manufacture the Model S sedan, with a goal of starting production in mid-2012 and ramping up to 20,000 vehicles a year, Musk said during a press conference with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda.

Over time, the goal is to make different models from the Model S platform at Nummi, Musk said. Even as it plans for production of the Model S sedan, Tesla plans to unveil future models.

"Expect to see lots of things in parallel," he said. "Think of the Model S as a platform on which there will be multiple variations."

Tesla executives have indicated interest in manufacturing an all-electric SUV or crossover vehicle. In the past, the company also talked about making an small, all-electric car.

The factory itself, which closed down because of GM's bankruptcy, has a capacity of making 500,000 vehicles a year. As such, Tesla's production of the Model S, targeted at 20,000 annually at first, will occupy just a small portion of the overall site.

Musk added that Tesla's intention is to create an environmentally friendly factory. "Our aspiration here is to make the greenest and cleanest car plant in the world...It should be a showpiece of automotive production."