There is something odd about the Volkswagen ID.4. The vehicle has yet to be properly unveiled, yet the vehicle is supposed to launch in Europe in 2020. In the US, the vehicle is slated to be released in either early 2022 or late 2021 more than a year from now. Does that timeline still make sense?
Note: There was some confusion earlier about the launch dates of the ID.4. The article has been updated to reflect that we are talking exclusively about the US factory.
A key piece of information brings a bit of a mystery. You see, according to the latest reports, 70% of the buildings needed to produce the ID.4 in the US is already in place, as well as part of the manufacturing line. This is a key detail.
Tesla Model Y Timeline
The Model Y was unveiled on March 15, 2019, something I remember well since I was personally at that unveiling event. At the time, and this is something people may have forgotten by now, the vehicle was supposed to start being delivered to customers in late 2020, almost 2 years after the unveil. Now let me take you back to October 15, 2019. I was actually the very first to make a bold claim in this article that the Model Y would be released in Q1 2020 rather than Q4, at least 3 quarters sooner than Tesla had initially said (and was still on record at the time). We had a source at Giga Nevada who revealed some details that would slate the Model Y for a Q1 release. In addition to that, around the exact same time (October 14, 2019), the image below this paragraph came out showing multiple Model Y prototypes on a truck.
In the comments of that article at the time, I also said that the only way Tesla could have made that many prototypes is if most of the manufacturing line, something like 70–90%, was already in place. This story is one that no other journalist believed at the time. None of the other news sites picked up on the story. Even our own Zachary Shahan followed up with an article saying that I am likely off by at least a whole quarter (highlighting that production was expected to start in Q1 based on the leak but deliveries were not mentioned).
However, on March 1, a couple of trucks full of Model Ys departed factory grounds, and just a few days prior, customers could choose a delivery date, starting with March 15. After all of the drama of production hell with the Model 3, the press was now praising Tesla without end for releasing the Model Y so soon, as well as being to deliver more than was promised rather than the reverse.
Note that prior to this, and Giga Shanghai beating expected timelines, we were accustomed to hearing overly optimistic timelines from Elon Musk — who always speaks what is on his mind and is seen by many as honest to a fault. This even stretched to the point where “Elon time” became a common term to represent the CEO’s overly ambitious timelines, which many have also pointed out do push the company to achieve more in a short timeframe even if they miss the impossible deadline. When Elon Musk said the Model Y would ship to customers in late 2020, though, he clearly separated internal targets from public ones. The early Model Y deliveries, as a result, were something extraordinary.
Where ID.3 & Model 3 Come In
Now we get to the Volkswagen ID.3, Volkswagen’s first next-generation vehicle, in many ways not unlike the Model 3 was for Tesla. Although the Volkswagen ID.3 did not seem to go through “production hell,” it appears clear that it has gone through a bug-infested “software hell” that stretches on to this day. It is a really exciting product that has been affected by software woes so badly that it has shaken people’s trust in Volkswagen’s ability to compete with Tesla and other automakers with a 21st century electric car that is more computer than car.
In recent weeks, Volkswagen essentially demoted its CEO, the one who spearheaded the company’s electrification efforts after dieselgate, and also dropped their head of software, who seems to have had no idea how the necessary software would work and said some pretty unintelligible things that confused improvements through machine learning AI for autonomy with improvements to user interface and software features.
Volkswagen definitely needs to catch a break. This is where the Volkswagen ID.4 in the US finally starts to come into play. Elon has said that the Model Y, because it’s a crossover rather than a sedan, will be Tesla’s most important product of all — the company’s highest selling vehicle. The same is true for the Volkswagen ID.4, which will be the company’s first next-generation electric vehicle to be sold worldwide (the ID.3 will not be sold worldwide, and that was never in the plans).
Now, as you might recall, I spilled the beans in the beginning of this article. According to reports, 70% of the buildings needed for the ID.4 in the US have been completed and parts of the manufacturing line have been completed as well. Apples to apples, is it at the exact same spot where Tesla was in October 2019? Probably not exactly, but considering that Tesla only decided to build the Model Y in Fremont in July 2019, I get the feeling Volkswagen is not too far behind this key point.
So, when you take the Model Y timeline into account, that could mean the Volkswagen ID.4 in the US could start pre-production in Q1 2021 and deliveries in Q2 2021, rather than in late 2021 or early 2022 as the company has promised. If the company announces and/or launches the ID.4 in Europe soon, its US cousin (brother?) could be not as far behind as we thought and as was initially announced — pulling “a Model Y,” so to speak.
There are a couple of big questions right now. The first is: when will VW reveal and or launch the ID.4 in Europe? The second is: how far along is Volkswagen is with the ID.4 manufacturing line in the US? The third regards what delivery date they will promise for the US at the event.
I have absolutely no doubt that if Volkswagen does pull a Model Y, the press will praise the company for days on end.
To close, the next most important sign of such a shift would be seeing US ID.4 prototypes in the wild, and more than a dozen prototypes being spotted on the factory grounds (at the US factory).
One thing is for sure: the ID.3 is already an exciting product that has begun Volkswagen’s next-generation electric lineup, but the ID.4 will be an affordable punch to the gut for the internal combustion engine, and is an even more exciting product.