The CEO of the world's hottest car manufacturer, Tesla Motors, quipped that an affordable electric car is just a few years away, according to a recent CBS News interview. "I think we can produce an affordable long-range compelling electric car in about three to four years," CEO Elon Musk said.

Statements like that are no longer considered boastful. In fact, traditional car companies, such as General Motors have now formed teams to study Tesla and learn from its success.

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.

Musk said, "I think the big American car companies kind of got complacent at a certain point and they just stopped trying to innovate, or they didn't think anyone could sort of outdo them and I think soon as you sort of have that, that attitude, then somebody's going to outdo you."