Detroit Auto Show: Model S Recall Upstages Tesla Press Conference

Tesla Model S Interior

The Model S has an Internet-enabled, 17-inch touch screen controlled via gestures that iPhone users will find familiar. Says hendriks, “our chief designer created the touch screen to be the ‘hero of the cabin.’ ”

Tesla's Jerome Guillen defends the electric-car maker's safety record, saying that the Model X follow-up to the Model S will be introduced "in the future."

DETROIT – During an occasionally testy exchange with reporters at an overflowing press conference Tuesday at the North American International Auto Show, Tesla Motors' Jerome Guillen said the electric-car company, whose Model S has become Hollywood's auto du jour, is "working ferociously" on the follow-up Model X and that it would be released "in the future."

"It will be here at some point," said Guillen, Tesla's vp worldwide sales and the Model S' chief engineer. 

There had been speculation that Tesla would unveil the Model X, an electric crossover SUV with gull-wing doors, at the auto show. Instead, Guillen emphasized the booming sales of the Model S and defended the car's safety record in the wake of three highly publicized car fires and a recall (announced Tuesday) of 29,222 Model S sedans from the 2013 model year to fix wall adapters and charging software that could cause fires.

"The Model S is a very safe car," Guillen said, adding that there had been "no fatality, no serious injury in a Model S, ever."

Guillen said sales of the Model S were up 20 percent over 2012 and that it was the top-selling car of all types, gas or electric, in Norway. He said to expect "growth, growth, growth -- reckless growth" for the company in 2014.

The Model X is seen as crucial to proving that Tesla, launched in 2003 by eBay co-founder and futurist Elon Musk, can build on the popularity of the Model S and broaden its product line. 

Musk did not attend the press conference.