Arguably the most aggressive single company driving the electric car market forward, Tesla had only one vehicle on offer in 2013 but by 2020 may have half a dozen.
The company actually started with its Lotus-based Roadster in 2008, which after fewer than 2,500 sales into 31 countries, the proof-of-concept went away shortly before the Model S came on line in 2012. Now marketing three models, last week Tesla announced a couple more.
Tesla’s two revealed vehicles due before or by decade’s end could not be further apart in their mission statement. One is a quarter-million dollar “toy for the rich,” as at least one pundit has called it, Tesla hopes will humble every gas-powered hypercar now sold, and the other is a tractor trailer meant to appeal to businesses.
Meanwhile the opinion pieces are coming forth in the predictable news cycle that followed with resultant waves sent into the high-flying TSLA stock which company CEO Elon Musk notes has more short positions than any other stock he knows of.
It all makes for good theater at least, assuming you don’t also have skin (or money) in the game, and on the most positive side Tesla is pushing the dial forward in a regulation-driven paradigm concerned with oil dependence and climate change.
As such, Tesla is certainly no longer alone. Other automakers are being pulled into the fray after dragging their feet this decade, or utterly sitting out as long as they could, and now we are hearing the makings of a tortoise and hare scenario in the making.
Tesla, underfunded last decade and early this decade, and yet not booking profits like the majors, is of course the proverbial hare – out in front. The tortoises are the global manufacturers who are financially solvent and promising a bunch more electric cars than Tesla is at this stage.
For example, VW Group wants at least 25 EVs by 2025. GM wants at least 23 by 2022. Others like Nissan, BMW, Daimler and Ford and others besides are also making noises of being competitive next decade when projections of far-more significant sales – and tighter regs – are in play.
Tesla’s present drama is the delay of the Model 3. According to Michigan-based analyst Alan Baum, that car is the linchpin for the company aspiring to be the first U.S. automaker to make it all the way to full solvency since Chrysler.
At any rate, here’s a rundown of the familiar and future product.
The Model S was launched in June 2012 and has defied the aging process for the most part by morphing into a series of cars from mild to wild. With introduction along the way of AWD, power over 700 hp, “Autopilot” and a facelift, the car is looking still relatively fresh, remains America’s best selling plug-in car, and thus doing OK entering its sixth year when vehicles as old from major makers would be looking more long in the tooth.
Tesla has been creative in maxing the car’s relevance and longevity, but by 2020 it shall be eight years old, and what Tesla might do to revamp it is a mystery as it juggles so many other balls the public has its collective eye on more intently at the moment.
The X “SUV” – really a crossover SUV better suited to streets than rutted roads, wooded trails, or the desert – was a sidetrack in the company’s multi-stage run-up toward the Model 3 which was to be the “mainstream” product.
Based on the Model S platform, the X follows the formula albeit with controversial “falcon wing” doors that forbid that feature of suburbia – the roof rack. By 2020, it will be six years old, but its future plans are less clear.
Musk admitted the car was expensive and complicated to produce. Even so, it is selling relatively well, as hte sub-market of EVs go, with an estimated 16,500 U.S. sales this year through October. That is right on the heels of the Chevy Bolt’s 17,083, and trails the Model S’ 20,300.
Since delivering 30 Model 3s a few months ago, Tesla has run into a “bottleneck” dramatically delaying plans to ramp up production to outlandish proportions.
Last year the company globally delivered fewer than 90,000 cars, and next year it said it would produce half a million – including 80-percent Model 3s, plus Model S and X – on its way to as many as a million in 2020.
The 3 model is the centerpiece of Tesla’s quest for profitability, and the make-or-break product for the company also venturing into solar and energy storage. Baum projects total production for 2017 at only 3,000, with U.S. sales at 2,400 meaning not all of them will be delivered. U.S. sales projected for 2018 are now downgraded to 95,000 which while that would nearly triple the present best any EV has sold in a single year, is far less than Tesla projected.
Total estimated global production is also far below Tesla’s estimated 400,000 at 125,000.
The Model 3 is also selling at this stage above the “$35,000” price widely published and cars starting in the lower-mid 40s will be the norm until maybe next year if the entry level base car ever is sold.
By 2020, Baum does not estimate Tesla will be anywhere close to its eye-popping projections either, but he is more optimistic than bears predicting Tesla is “going out of business.”
Model 3 Crossover
Not revealed yet, the crossover version of the 3 is also expected sometime in the next couple years, and ought to prove very popular assuming they do it right.
As many know, crossovers are trending, and the 3 is too, so assuming the bottleneck is cleared – and perhaps more factory capacity or another factory comes online, the crossover stands to help Tesla’s aspirational goals greatly and will be a very fresh model by the turn of the decade.
Tesla said it would reveal a pickup within the next couple years as well, but whether it is in production by 2020 is something Baum is skeptical over.
Anything is possible, and the truck would aim at a segment also popular with a lot to prove to buyers with high expectations on features like range, towing capability, off-road competence, and cargo hauling utility.
Whether the truck would really be an alternative to a Ford F-150, or more like something to give the unibody chassis Honda Ridgeline a go is up for discussion.
Not content to attack major segments in the consumer car world, Tesla is jumping right up to the largest Class 8 truck with more controversial claims.
Semis today travel upwards of 1,000-1,400 miles on their fuel load and fill up at will at ubiquitous trucks stops, but Tesla wants to start from scratch with “Megachargers” dumping major kilowatts into batteries with range up to 500 miles.
The truck with driver centrally perched is as quick unladen as an Infiniti sports sedan however – 0-60 in 5 seconds – and claims even loaded it’s twice as quick as a diesel and can pull a 5 percent grade at 65 mph instead of only 45.
Already Walmart has ordered 15, J.B. Hunt is also ordering the truck to check out, and others will too.
Baum says this one actually stands to help with cashflow, which is part of why he thinks it will get here before the pickup. This is assuming Tesla can convince fleet buyers who make objective decisions based on return on investment. Truck stops or other businesses could be ideal partners in fronting costs for the needed charging network, and potentially, Tesla could be in business assuming these pieces of the puzzle come together.
Will this EV have a transmission? What is its curb weight compared to the Ferraris, McLarens, Lamborghinis, Aston Martins, Paganis, Koenigseggs, etc. of the world?
And, compared to these, how would it lap a road race course? Unknown at this time, the metric released is 0-9 in 1.9 seconds or less, quarter mile in 8.9 seconds or less, top speed of 250 or more.
Acceleration is but one measure of a hypercar, but it has been enough to sell fast Model S sedans on the assumption it’s a road car and not intended for Road America.
It’s being suggested the 200-kW battery four-seat car with range over 600 miles may have transmission to achieve the audacious top speed, but this also is unclear.
Tesla is taking reservations starting at $5,000, or if you want one of the 1,000 Founders Editions, payment in full of $250,000 is kindly requested which would amount to $250 million interest-free cash for Tesla to float the enterprise as it readies the car for 2020.
This price is actually bargain basement next to the elite hypercars which cost high six figures up to several million dollars, so this car too could have a business case not so much in Dubois, but perhaps Dubai, and other high rent districts along with anyone looking for an amusement park ride they can also get the groceries with.
By 2020, European regulations will be demanding fleet average CO2 emissions be down to a scant 95g/km, and U.S. rules may be close too, assuming the Trump EPA does not give automakers loopholes as is feared by advocates.
China meanwhile will be driving the market as it already is, and that Communist country’s central planners are unfazed in their determination to create a regulated market strongly biased toward EVs.
As such, look for major automakers to be introducing products at an increasing rate as Tesla vies with its established lead and deeply rooted fan base.
Whether other Tesla vehicles will be announced in the interim is anyone’s guess. While the company has its hands more than full already, don’t put it past it as surpise and selling the sizzle of an electric future within grasp is the company’s stock in trade.