Twenty fourteen has been a busy year for Tesla Motors. Not only has it successfully searched for and found the site of its first massive lithium-ion processing and recycling Gigafactory, but it has also dramatically expanded the number of countries you can buy a Tesla Model S in, overseen an explosion in the number of Tesla Superchargers available around the world, and more recently, announced a whole new drivetrain option and self-driving capabilities for its flagship Model S.
So buys in fact, that it might be easy to expect that Tesla’s next car, the Model X crossover SUV, might be a little behind schedule.
At least, that’s the view of Adam Jonas, a financial analyst from Morgan Stanley. As USAToday (via GreenCarReports) explains, Jonas, an avid follower of Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA], said he believes there is a ‘Reasonable risk’ that Tesla Model X will be at least slightly delayed on its way to the marketplace.
The Tesla Model X, first unveiled back in February 2012, is built around a modified version of the same battery pack and chassis as the Tesla Model S. Taller than the Model S, the Model X is built to tackle full-size crossover SUVs in the marketplace, and features seating for five, plus two additional full-size third-row seats. Like the Model S, the all-wheel drive electric crossover will be offered with a choice of two different battery pack sizes, a similar range per charge as the Model S, and come with supercharging capability.
But it is perhaps the Model X’s famous falcon wing doors — a second row of doors which hinge upwards like gull wing doors but fold in the middle to allow their operation in cramped spaces – which has generated so much interest in the Model X and the Tesla brand. In addition to facilitating third-row access, the falcon wing doors make it easier for parents to strap their kids into the second-row seats, minimising fuss and bother in tight parking lots.
Yet those same doors — which Tesla CEO Elon Musk has admitted have been the cause of some engineering difficulties at Tesla — could be just one of many reasons why the Tesla Model X has been pushed back not once, but twice so far since its debut.
The first delay was announced in March 2013, when Tesla noted via an earnings filing with the Securities & Exchanges Commission that it would be pushing its planned launch date for the Model X from December 2013 to December 2014. Then earlier this year in February, Musk said that deliveries would likely not start for the Model X until March 2015, noting more recently that the falcon wing door design — and the door seals made between the car body and the lifting part of the door — were at least partially to blame for the delay.
That delay, predicts Jonas, is likely to continue until fall next year, as Tesla continues to develop and refine its Model X design to ensure its first production units perform to Tesla’s exacting standards. While Jonas appears to have no insider information on which to base that prediction and is careful to note that his views are not shared by Tesla, the prediction does appear to make at least some sense.
When the Tesla Model S was launched back in 2012, many of its early cars suffered some significant built quality issues, both in terms of fit and finish but also in terms of drivetrain malfunctions. Some of those cars — which initially received full drivetrain replacements under warranty — continued to cause Tesla some headaches for several years after their manufacture. Waiting a little longer to launch the Model X to solve any potential similar problems associated with a new product launch might make sense.
It’s fair too to say that we’ve not heard of any Model X models out in the wild for some time, suggesting that perhaps Tesla’s not quite at final pre-production models, let along production validation models. Since that process normally takes several months, Jonas’ prediction seems at least plausible.
Without any hard and fast data however, it’s almost impossible to predict if Tesla really will reach its own promised Model X delivery date of early 2015 or be forced to push the Model X debut even further back.
As a passing thought, we’d like to remind our readers that while the data may suggest things will be pushed back again, Tesla does have an uncanny ability to perform the impossible. And with the Tesla Model S Dual Motor drive configuration announced earlier this month — which we’re sure is inherited from the Model X — there’s still time for Tesla to make good on its promise.
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