Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk on Friday (Australian time) closed the missing link in the company's promised S3XY electric vehicle range, unveiling the Model Y, an SUV that will be priced as low as $US39,000 ($A55,000).
In a glitzy, and typically delayed, launch at the Tesla design studios in California, Musk went through a retrospective of Tesla products, from its initial Roadster, through to the Model S, the Model X, the mass-production Model 3, the new Roadster, the upcoming Tesla Semi, and now the Model Y.
“Here is the missing car,” he said at the unveil. Tesla says it will have a price range starting at $US39,000, and it will be delivered from next northern autumn (so late 2020), with the cheaper standard version coming out in 2021. No word initially on arrivals in Australia.
(See Bridie Schmidt's full report on the new Model Y and its design, price and specification on our electric vehicle focused website, The Driven).
Musk used the presentation to underline the achievement of Tesla, not just in designing cars but also taking them to mass production, and of leading the way in energy storage.
“The issue is not about coming up with the car design, it is the production system. The factory is the hard part,” Musk said, referring to the past 12 months as a “near death” moment as Tesla had to throw all its resources at sorting out its Model 3 production issues.
“It is 100 times harder to design the manufacturing system than the car itself … it took a very dedicated team to turn a derelict warehouse (at Fremont) into an efficient car factory.
“It is worth noting that the last time in the US that any car company achieved mass manufacturing was about 100 years ago. Then there was Tesla. It literally is that crazy.”
Musk's pitch was clearly targeted at the nay-sayers, and the short-sellers, who have consistently tried to talk down the company's achievements, its stock and its hope for the future. Still it was a close run thing. “We nearly dies …. 2018 felt like ageing 5 years in one,” he said.
“It's pretty wild to think that 11 years ago today we had made just one car (the very first Roadster).” Now it has produced more than 550,000. “A year from now we will have made one million,” he said.
And Musk noted the impact that Tesla was having, not just on the conversation about electric vehicles and the energy transition, but also on how it has enabled and accelerated that transition.
He noted the naysers, and outlined exactly how Tesla had chosen different model to shift the view of electric vehicles. “There was a time when electric cars seemed very stupid. And it wasn't that long ago.”
And now, following the success of Tesla, the change in tune, and the massive shift in focus of the world's manufacturers, as most car makers promise that they too will switch to electric.
“Fundamentally, the historic good of Tesla is the degree to which we accelerate the shift to sustainable energy and transport,” he said. “It is extremely rewarding that the rest of industry is going electric.”
Musk said that now the production issues with the Model 3 were largely overcome, and the company is opening new “gigafactories” in the US and China, the focus of the company will also be able to return to the much vaunted “solar roof” and the Powerwall battery, as well as the Powerback.
The company was about to best the Tesla big battery in South Australia with a 1 gigawatt hour installation in California.
“I expect this ultimately to be critical to transitioning the world to sustainable energy. You need sustainable energy production, and you need sustainable energy consumption.
“With solar, with solar plus battery plus electric vehicles, we have a fully sustainable future. That is the future we can feel excited and optimistic about. I think it really matters.”
Giles Parkinson is founder and editor of Renew Economy
, and is also the founder of One Step Off The Grid
and founder/editor of The Driven
. Giles has been a journalist for 35 years and is a former business and deputy editor of the Australian Financial Review.