This information is going to cause some controversy, because everything we knew, or thought we knew, about Tesla’s Model Y timeline is about to change. Originally, the Model Y was supposed to start shipping in “late 2020.” Currently, Tesla’s website says new orders will ship in Q1 2021. However, according to an anonymous source with a proven and reliable track record, Tesla is about to accelerate its plans and start production sometime around Q1 2020 at its Fremont factory. (We’ve also received the same information independently through a second-hand source.)
Related story: Tesla Model Y: “Limited Production” ≠ Customer Deliveries
The Model Y is expected to launch with the Long Range all-wheel drive (AWD) trim, according to this source, and Tesla will release the Standard Range Plus (SR+) version once production has been ramped up and the Model Y SR+ has a large enough gross margin. That is how Tesla has done it previously.
Tesla has learned a lot since it started manufacturing the Model 3, and it’s possible that the ramp up will be much quicker than with the Model 3, but we don’t have a firm estimate of when the SR+ would start rolling off the line.
One other bit of important speculation here is that GF1 is still supply constrained. In that case, Tesla would want to focus customers as much as possible on the Model Y Performance and Long Range variants to ensure overall profitability. (Just as a quick side note, for any critic reading this article, this doesn’t mean that Tesla is unprofitable — it simply means the company is being logical and responsible in order to maximize profitability while expanding its lineup.)
Another fun little tidbit of technical information we have been told is that the Model Y will indeed use the new revolutionary flex-cable circuitry that reduces the length of wires needed throughout the car and also gives every component a redundant connection to the battery and the computer. This makes it possible for robots to install more of the “guts and veins” of the car and cut down on the manual labor involved in installing cables. As Elon Musk has said multiple times, robots suck at placing normal cables into the vehicle.
Many Model Y components will be similar to those in the Model 3, but not identical, including the battery packs.
This obviously raises a ton of questions, here are some and how they will change the grand scheme of things:
Is Tesla going to repeat the production hell it went through in Q4 2018/Q1 2019?
It’s possible, but not very likely. Tesla’s Model 3 was the first car Tesla ever decided to build at the scale of hundreds of thousands per year. It was also an almost entirely new vehicle with few shared parts between it and the Model S or X. The company made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot from those mistakes. The Model Y and Model 3 share about 75% of their components, so the learning curve should be much easier.
How did Tesla manage to pull this off?
In the last year or two, many in the media have bashed on Tesla like it was their guilty pleasure, writing up all kinds of misinformation, FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt), and predictions of doom. (Bankwuptcy is willy coming!) The media claimed that the Model 3 was behind schedule, that Tesla couldn’t mass manufacture it, that the Model 3 was unprofitable, that the Standard Range trim would never come, that Tesla in general is unprofitable, and more. Tesla has refuted each claim simply with its actions time and time again.
One of Elon’s base instincts is to set very ambitious timelines, a strategy that has always paid off. Even if that overly ambitious goal was not met on time, it was still met much quicker than it would have been with a conservative timeline. There is a pretty famous example about the beginning of The Boring Company. Elon decided he wanted to do it and that he will do it right outside in the parking lot and asked how soon they could clear out all the cars and everything else to start digging. The first timeline given to him was a week. Elon gave them 24 hours and they broke ground within 48. We received similar stories when interviewing Tesla President Jerome Guillen regarding Model 3 production.
With the Model Y, I am willing to bet that Elon’s timeline for starting Model Y manufacturing was around the end of 2019, and after a lot of convincing from was persuaded to say Q1 2021 on stage — for the first time separating internal targets from public ones. Now, instead of the news claiming that Elon is late, they will claim he is a miracle worker and the stock will go up since he is basically “playing the game” that gets Wall Street and the media to portray Tesla’s good side. If anyone is familiar with the engineer Scotty from Star Trek and how he was a “miracle worker,” well, this is pretty much the same thing. (This is simply my expectation, of course. It is not investment advice.)
For the record, Tesla representatives have not yet responded to an inquiry about this leaked news. We will update this article if they do.
Where will the Model Y be manufactured?
According to the information we currently have, Tesla will be manufacturing the Model Y at its Fremont factory. Something I have been looking to report on but never got around to is speculation about where in the factory Tesla could place GA5. While the next image does not show the layout of the manufacturing lines (of which we have been able to draw a speculative map but are not publishing today), it does show where we think GA5 will be.
Part of this speculation is based on something Elon Musk said during the 2019 Q1 investor call:
“Credit goes to the Tesla team that actually looked at how could we do this in Fremont, if we had to, and we feel like we can actually append building space to the west side of the building and use a lot of internal space that is currently used for warehousing in Fremont factory, and so we believe it actually can be done with minimal disruption to add Model Y to Fremont.”
Now, the area that Tesla has currently labeled as a service center is technically speaking not something that necessarily has to be attached to the main factory complex. Tesla’s seats, for example, are manufactured in a factory a few miles away. The same can be done with the service center. With the unibody stamping technologies we have seen Tesla patent and the fact that the Model Y and Model 3 share 75% of their components, it’s quite possible that parts of those lines can be combined. There are rumors that Tesla plans to combine the Model S and X lines. We have no information to offer on this, but one thing we do know is that Model S and Model X make use of a lot of manual work and have a lot fewer robots than GA3, and those lines could theoretically use a tech upgrade.
Will they start manufacturing the Model Y in Shanghai at the same time?
Our primary source told us that there are currently no plans to start manufacturing the Model Y at GF3 in Q1 2020. The Model 3 has been manufactured for over a year. There were a lot of small problems with the Model 3 and the way the vehicle is manufactured that have since been solved, and the process in general has been smoothed out. With the Model Y, while it does share many of the same components, Tesla will likely want to make many small changes to how it’s manufactured before copy-pasting it in Shanghai.
We are likely to hear more about this during the Q3 investor call slated for October 23rd, and just like the last few times, we will be live on YouTube to present it with a lot of the extra context that we also provided last time. More on that soon.
Our secondary source heard that more information regarding the Y will come at the Tesla pickup event next month. We’ll see. In the meantime, if you learn more, drop us a note.
As noted above, Tesla has not yet responded to an inquiry about the leaked news. We will update this article if the company does so.
Some minor adjustments have been made to this article after publishing to clarify language/details.