If you think consumer demand for the Model 3 is strong, think what it will be for the Model Y, the (sort of) affordable compact crossover/SUV-type vehicle Elon Musk has up his marketing and engineering sleeves. According to E. W. Niedermeyer of The Daily Kanban, Tesla has begun soliciting quotes from suppliers who might be interested in providing parts for the Model Y. They tell Niedermeyer that the company is telling them the start of production is currently scheduled for March of 2020. Previously, Musk indicated Tesla would start building the Model Y in 2019.
HOT TIP: a supplier source tells me Tesla is sending out drawings and specs to solicit quotes for the Model Y crossover. Start of production targeted for March 1, 2020.
— E.W. Niedermeyer (@Tweetermeyer) January 30, 2018
One question on everyone’s lips is, what will the Model Y look like? Elon started out by saying it would be built on an entirely new chassis. Then during an earnings call last July, he walked that back. “I think in a prior call, we publicly had said that Model Y, or our compact SUV — it’s called Model Y — it may or may not be, would be a totally new architecture,” he said. “Upon the council of my executive team — thank you, thanks, guys — who reeled me back from the cliffs of insanity, much appreciated — the Model Y will in fact be using a substantial carryover from Model 3 in order to bring [it to] market faster.”
Crossover SUVs are the sweet spot to the new-car market globally, a fact Elon is well aware of. “People prefer an SUV,” he says. “And in fact, the SUV market is larger. It’s the biggest single product I believe in the world.”
Perhaps the question on most people’s mind when thinking about the Model Y is, “Will it have falcon-wing doors.” Elon once tweeted that either the Model 3 or Model Y would have them, but he actually deleted that tweet not long after. While they certainly make a statement and are responsible for lots of favorable publicity, they also delayed the start of production for the Model X by a year or so. And they continue to be a source of irritation for many owners, especially if they pop open while driving. Others are supremely happy with their special doors.
Perhaps those same engineers who cautioned Elon about using a completely new chassis will also talk him out of doing some crazy thing with the Model Y doors. The falcon-wing doors may be an asset on the low-volume Model X but could arguably be a hindrance on the a car intended for large volume production like the Model Y. Many CleanTechnica readers have indicated a strong preference for conventional doors on the Model Y so that they can buy an affordable electric SUV sooner rather than later. Will Musk listen?
One person who seems to be fed up with Elon’s “over-promise and under-deliver” management style is Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple. The great and powerful Woz told people at the Nordic Business Conference in Stockholm last week that he once believed in Musk’s promises, particularly in regard to when fully autonomous technology would be available on Tesla cars, but does not any more. “I believed that stuff,” Wozniak said, then added, “What he says, can you really believe in him? Is he just a good salesman, like Jobs, and may not be there [in the end]?”
He also slammed Tesla for rolling out self-driving tech that is in beta mode, which makes customers part of the validation process. He called it “kind of a cheap way out of it,” and suggested rivals like Audi and BMW were actually leading the autonomous driving field, especially in the US. He says he and his wife prefer to drive their Chevy Bolt most of the time, reserving their Tesla for longer trips so they can take advantage of the Supercharger network. [Editor’s note: It seems Steve might prefer that approach too if he had the options, liking the Bolt for probably similar reasons as Woz.]
There are many unanswered questions about the Model Y. Will it be built in Fremont or at a new factory? Will it have falcon-wing doors or some other form of gee wizardry meant to garner headlines? Will production begin in 2019? 2020? 2021? No one (other than Elon) has a clear idea, and even Elon doesn’t know for sure. One thing we can count on is a splashy introduction party like the one for the Model 3 sometime later this year or early next year. Musk is good at those. He is less successful at matching the hype he creates with targeted timelines.
So far, that hasn’t hurt sales of Tesla products in the slightest. But competitors are waiting in the wings and Tesla won’t have the stage all to itself too much longer. The legacy automakers have one advantage Tesla does not. They know how to crank out millions of vehicles a year that are finished to a very high standard. Tesla has yet to prove it can do the same.
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