Tesla’s Model Y SUV Brings More to the Masses

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The Model Y is here, and Elon Musk has once again shown why Tesla may be the most exciting car company on the planet—notwithstanding the never-ending crises and controversies.

From the stage at Tesla’s design studio in Hawthorne, California, Musk unveiled the baby SUV, which shares about three-quarters of its parts with the Model 3 sedan. But it’s a bit bigger, with three rows and room for seven passengers. You can now preorder the car via Tesla’s website by putting down $2,500.

Tesla plans to release the Model Y in four flavors. The Performance version, due out in fall 2020, will go from 0 to 60 mph in a blistery 3.5 seconds, and offer 280 miles of range for a cool $60,000. The Dual Motor AWD, also slated for fall 2020, should do 0 to 60 in 4.8 seconds, hit a 135 mph top speed, and travel up to 280 miles on one charge for $51,000. Tesla promises the Long Range version, also due fall 2020, will have 300 miles of range, hit 130 mph, and clock in a 5.5-second 0 to 60 sprint for $47,000. Finally: the $39,000 Standard Range version, slated to arrive in spring 2021, should reach 230 miles on a charge and will have a top speed of 120 mph and a 0 to 60 time of 5.9 seconds. An important reminder, with regard to those dates: Tesla rarely hits its own deadlines, and has on multiple occasions delivered cars months or even years behind schedule.

When Musk took the stage Thursday—dressed in all black, with custom Tesla-branded Nike sneakers—he started off by talking history. “There was a time when electric cars seemed very stupid,” he said, bringing out Tesla’s autos, one by one: the two-seat Roadster, the Model S sedan, the Model X SUV, and the Model 3. Plus, there were some cars-to-be: the new Roadster and the Semi, both of which Tesla says will go into production next year. Musk mentioned how Tesla built a factory in Fremont, California, and a battery Gigafactory outside Reno, Nevada, and that’s there’s a factory under construction in Shanghai.

The CEO harped on the difficulty of mass-manufacturing cars, saying they’ve proved 100 times harder to build than design. “2018 felt like aging five years in one,” Musk told the audience. “Honestly, it was really intense.” It’s not the first time he’s acknowledged that the process is arduous. He warned that building the Model 3 would be “production hell,” and reports from inside Tesla suggest that he was right. But Musk also noted that in about a year’s time, Tesla will have produced 1 million vehicles.

The Model Y comes at an interesting moment for Tesla. After a year of upheaval, Muskian Twitter flame wars, and lawsuits, Model 3 production is finally going smoothly, and the automaker posted profits in the third and fourth quarters of 2018—its first such repeat performance. Last month, Musk announced Tesla would finally start selling a $35,000 version of the Model 3, a milestone price point he had touted for years.

But along with the rest of the industry, Tesla is facing a tightening market, and Musk has said he doesn’t expect the company to be profitable in the first quarter of this year. To offer that $35,000 Model 3, Tesla had to cut costs and announced it would close most of its stores and move its sales model entirely online. Then, earlier this week, it walked that back, saying it would keep more stores open, but raise prices on all its cars by about 3 percent on average (but still offer that baseline $35,000 Model 3).

What’s exciting about the Model Y, from Tesla’s perspective, is that it’s positioned to push the automaker much further into the consumer market. SUVs, you see, are megapopular—the fastest growing vehicle segment in the US. So much so that Ford and General Motors have given up on the idea of selling regular cars to Americans. “We’ll probably do more Y than S, X, and 3 [sales] combined,” Musk said.

Because the Model Y is relatively inexpensive, it could reach the vast swaths of the market that can’t afford a luxury car, are interested in electric, and want something roomier than a sedan. “The Model Y represents Tesla’s biggest opportunity yet. Its price and body style should resonate with the majority of today’s car buyers,” according to Karl Brauer, an industry analyst with Kelley Blue Book. “This also makes the Model Y the most important vehicle in Tesla’s history.”

Yet prodded by regulators around the world, the rest of the auto industry has started to buy into this whole electric thing. And they’re coming with SUVs: Audi’s E-tron and Jaguar’s i-Pace are already available. Porsche, BMW, Volkswagen, Volvo, and Mercedes are preparing similar offerings. Newcomers like Rivian and Byton are jumping in. Tesla has been selling those 1 million cars at a time when there were few other compelling electric options. Now it’s got to win buyers not just to battery power, but to Tesla specifically.

Referring to his not-quite-subtle naming of his cars the Model S, 3, X, and Y, Musk said, “We are bringing sexy back, quite literally.” But like anyone inching toward full adulthood, Tesla may want to rely less on sex appeal and more on wisdom and experience.


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This story has not been edited by Topic Hunt (with the possible exception of the headline) and has been generated from a syndicated feed. (Wired)

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