Tesla Bumps Chinese Customers Ahead of European Ones for Deliveries of Model X Luxury Electric Car

When Tesla Motors finally began deliveries of its Model X all-electric luxury SUV at the end of September last year, it ended more than three-years of waiting for those who had placed a deposit down at the Model X debut event in 2012.

Since then, it has quietly been working its way through the long list of Model X reservations, starting with U.S. customers who put a sizeable deposit down to grab the limited-edition Tesla Model X Signature Series variant of the long-range plug-in. Once those orders have been fulfilled, general Model X pre-orders will be built, followed by orders placed more recently. Even today however, someone placing the required $5,000 deposit down on a Tesla Model X will find themselves with a substantial wait before their car arrives at their local Tesla store.

Chinese customers will get their hands on the Model X before European ones

Chinese customers will get their hands on the Model X before European ones

As with the Tesla Model S, which followed a similar initial production schedule, Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA]  plans to open up Model X deliveries to other key markets over the coming months and years, gradually making the high-end, falcon-winged SUV available in more and more markets. When the Model S launched, Europe became the first market outside of the U.S. where the high-end plug-in was sold, starting sales fourteen months after the U.S. Model S launch.

This time around however, European customers are being told they’ll have to wait in line behind China, which will be the first non-U.S. market to get the Model X.

The news was broken last week by Bloomberg (via GreenCarReports), which said that Tesla has used the occasion of the Chinese New Year to offer Chinese customers the high-end Model X P90D Signature Series SUV from ¥1.48 million ($225,00). Alongside the special limited-edition signature series, Tesla will offer the standard Model X 90D for sale priced from ¥947,04 ($146,000) to ¥1.154 million ($178,000).

The Model X certainly fits with SUV-obsessed Chinese buyers -- but will it do better than the Model S?

The Model X certainly fits with SUV-obsessed Chinese buyers — but will it do better than the Model S?

Tesla’s move appears to be motivated by a wish to capitalize on the popularity of SUVs in the People’s Republic of China, a market segment which shows no sign of slowing and one which Tesla could easily exploit given China’s tough license-plate lottery program for all types of cars except electrically-powered ones.

There’s also the Model X’s sophisticated air filtration system, one which Tesla boasts is the best seen in any production vehicle to date. Capable of not only cleaning the air of pollutants like smog by also filtering out and killing airborne bacteria and viruses, it’s likely that Tesla is hoping the burgeoning upper middle class of China will see the Model X as a way of keeping their families safe in some of the world’s most polluted cities.

And that’s before we mention that China is the biggest auto market on the planet.

While Tesla is prioritizing its Model X sales efforts in China however, there are some pretty big challenges that lay ahead in that particular market. When it officially began deliveries of the Model S there in April 2014, the high cost of shipping and importing the Model S meant that it was far more expensive to buy in China than it was in its home market of North America. Add in limited recharging infrastructure, and Tesla found sales far harder in China than it had initially hoped.

With its form factor and features both expected to be popular among Chinese buyers, Tesla is hoping that the Model X will help increase its presence in the world’s biggest automotive marketplace. But with Tesla also focusing on quality not quantity of the difficult-to-build Model X and pre-orders still number in the thousands, it’s difficult to say how long it will take Tesla to fulfill all the pre-orders it has in the U.S., let alone China or Europe.

And that could cause some significant frustration and angst, even among the most loyal of Tesla customers.


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