The 2018 Tesla Model ≡ — Tesla’s highly-anticipated third-generation, 200+ mile mass-market electric car — is already causing a lot of attention in the plug-in world, if only because of its promised $35,000 price point and the massive $5 billion Gigafactory being built by Telsa Motors in Reno, NV to produce lithium-ion battery cells in a high-enough volume to make that price point achievable.
But now British-born Chris Porritt, Tesla’s vice president for engineering, has upped the hype surrounding the Model ≡ by suggesting that Tesla might be open to producing a crossover SUV or station wagon variant of the BMW 3-series killer.
Talking with AutoExpress, Porritt, said that while development on the Model ≡ is still in its early stages, the Californian automaker isn’t ruling anything out at this stage.
“We don’t know what type of customer we’re trying to appeal to yet, but we want to speak to more customers… Lots of them!” he said. “We’ve got specific customers for Model S, we have an idea with Model X, but we need to appeal more to people with Model ≡.”
One way of doing that, he said, was to develop Model ≡ variants which would help appeal to a wider cross-section of car buyers.
“We want this car to be £30,000 to £35,000 with derivatives which will appeal to all sorts of people,” he explained. “SUVs, estates [station wagons] — who knows?”
In building the Model ≡, a car which Tesla hopes will cross-shop against cars like the BMW 3-Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C Class, Tesla not only needs to build a car that competes in terms of price, but one which encompasses the versatility of its rivals.
That means a station wagon and SUV variant makes good business sense, especially since all three of its main rivals are available in station wagon format — and have sibling SUV models of a similar size and price.
Whatever Tesla chooses however, its design decisions will need to be smart, and cost-effective.
“We’ve got to be more efficient in the way we built it and we will have to use more cost-effective materials and/or be clever with the materials we use,” Porritt admitted. With analysts already casting doubt on Tesla’s abilities to build the Tesla Model ≡ for anywhere near the $35,000 promised price point Tesla says it will hit, Tesla has its work cut out in proving its doubters wrong.
For now however, the biggest challenge facing Tesla ins’t which variants it should offer its Model ≡ in. It’s simply ensuring that the upcoming Tesla Model X — not to mention the massive Gigafactory Tesla needs to make the Model ≡ a reality — hit all their promised completion dates.
Without either, talking about Model ≡ variants is a bit of a moot point.
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