Volkswagen’s U.S. chief ruffled some entrepreneurial feathers on Thursday when he told a group of business school students at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management that  it will be 35 years before electric cars make up a significant portion of the world’s auto market.

During his prepared remarks, Volkswagen Group of America CEO Stefan Jacoby outlined the German automaker’s view that fossil fuels and traditional combustion engines will be with us for many years to come. VW, however, is committed to making them vastly more fuel efficient. The company is also investing heavily in so-called clean diesel technology, which reduces tailpipe emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases while still giving cars their “fun-to-drive” pep.

“At Volkswagen we are taking a long-term and a short-term approach, and the short-term approach is not electric vehicles,” Jacoby said. “We can have cars on the road that have fuel consumption of 50, 60, 70 miles per gallon. That can happen in the next ten years.”

For electric cars to make economic sense now, gas prices would have to be about $10 a gallon, Jacoby said, attempting to underscore the high cost of electric vehicle technology.

“May I ask how many of you guys can afford a Tesla?” Jacoby asked, referring to the company behind the $109,000 electric Roadster sports car.