Tesla Completes Its SEXY* Quartet
Appearing at times light-hearted, at other times nostalgic and sometimes weary, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tonight presented his company’s next car—the compact crossover Model Y. As expected, since it shares three-fourths of its hardware with the Model 3, it’s more a slight departure in style than a shift of substance. The taller roofline allows for a seven-passenger configuration, but it could pass for a sedan in most driveways. Musk promised safety and performance to match the Model 3.
When the Tesla Model Y arrives, it will follow the cadence established by the Model 3—more expensive models first (fall of 2020 in this case) followed by the entry-level model in spring 2021. The four models, in descending order of price and bragging rights, are the:
- Performance (AWD) Model Y – 280-mile range, 0-60 in 3.5 seconds, $60,000
- Dual Motor (AWD) Model Y – 280-mile range, 0-60 in 4.8 seconds, $57,000
- Long Range (RWD) Model Y – 300-mile range, $47,000
- Short Range (RWD) Model Y – 230-mile range, $39,000
Of course, $2,500 configuration orders are being accepted tonight, which should boost the cash flow in the House of Elon. Musk mused that the sales of the Model Y could top the combined sales of the Model 3 and Model X combined.
Another now-typical Tesla feature, in addition to the least expensive model not being available at launch, is that those base prices don’t get you the full-featured car you might expect. Even the $60,000 Performance model charges extra any exterior paint color or interior color other than black, and the seven-seat configuration is also an upgrade, along with the driver assistance package Autopilot or the promised full self-driving system. Load it all up and your $60,000 compact crossover will cost you $74,500. And some of those features, such as seven-passenger seating, won’t be available until 2021.
On the other end of the spectrum, sometime in 2021 the base $39,000 five-passenger version will come to market in black exterior and interior with 18-inch Model 3-clone wheels and no advanced software—unless you want to start adding to the bottom line.
Things Said, Not Said
While Musk spent most of his presentation talking about Tesla’s history of struggling, but achieving feats thought impossible by many. He took credit for changing the direction of the auto industry. “Our goal was to get the rest of the auto industry to go electric,” the CEO said to cheers from the overflow crowd. I’m not really sure how this works as a business strategy since competition may end up diluting Tesla sales, but there is some truth to to his claim of pushing automakers down a road they had been reluctant to go.
Musk did not say where Tesla planned to build the Model Y, other than the under-construction China Gigafactory. That factory will start building the Model 3 this year (assuming it gets finished as planned), with most product going to the domestic China market. Given the long-standing issues getting the Model 3 up to volume production, the Model Y will likely present another round of challenges for a company Musk admitted is still struggling with mass production.
“The difficultly of mass production is underrated,” Musk said early in the evening. He said compared with designing a car, designing production is “100 times harder.” Of course, the world’s experienced automakers are probably chuckling at the comment, even while trying to gauge how to respond to this upstart car company that has pushed its larger and more experienced competition to accelerate competitive products.
Tesla History & Future
It turns out the Model Y reveal may not have just been driven by Tesla’s desire to scrape up another round of customer cash that it can hold for a year or two to fund ongoing projects. Musk began the evening reminiscing that “eleven years ago today Tesla had made one car—serial number one of the Roadster.” It took them three months to build a second unit.
Musk contrasted that with a prediction that by the end of 2019 the company will have produced a cumulative million vehicles. He was also quite forthright about the struggles of the past year, which ended up producing two cash-flow positive quarters and more than 100,000 Model 3s, catapulting that car into limelight as the best-selling electric car.
With his year of “production hell” and “delivery hell” behind him, Musk predicted 2019 would be the year of the long-promised solar roof and Powerwall—Tesla’s solar power and battery energy storage products.
Of course part of looking back is looking ahead, so Musk asked rhetorically, “Where will we be in 10 years?” The crowd suggested and Musk repeated—“Oh yeah, we’ll be driving a Tesla on Mars.”
*Footnote: SEXY was one of Musk’s ongoing jokes of the past 10 years, repeated numerous times during the evening. The original product plan for Tesla called for a Model S (for sedan), Model E (who knows, economy?), Model X (crossover) and Model Y to complete the “bad boy” acronym. Model E became Model 3 when Ford threatened to sue over its trademark of the name.
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The Clean Fleet Report History of Tesla
Flash Drive: Tesla Model 3 Long Range
Personal: The Tesla Shopping Experience
First Drive: Tesla Model X P100D