Production of affordable seven-seat EV goes ahead amid near-global automotive shutdown
Tesla has announced that deliveries of its Model Y electric compact SUV have begun, and that the Fremont factory where it is produced will continue to operate despite a global automotive shutdown.
Early buyers of the all-electric crossover have started receiving their cars, and an official video posted to Tesla’s Twitter feed (below) shows the Model Y in operation. It comes as car manufacturers worldwide enter a state of shutdown in response to the coronavirus pandemic; it had initially been reported that Tesla’s Fremont plant would close – as a result of the ‘shelter in place’ policy being implemented in California – but it has been deemed an ‘essential business’, and will remain open for the foreseeable future.
— Tesla (@Tesla) March 16, 2020
The company’s fourth mainstream model, which was unveiled at its Los Angeles design centre by CEO Elon Musk, was originally expected to start production towards the end of 2020 – a date that was subsequently brought forward to summer 2020 late last year.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk used the company’s fourth-quarter financial results to reveal that the all-wheel drive, Long Range version of the electric SUV would have would have an extended range of 315 miles on the EPA test cycle, up from the 280 miles stated at the car’s reveal.
The Model Y will be manufactured in the company’s Fremont factory in California, not its Gigafactory facility in Reno, Nevada as originally predicted. From 2021, Tesla’s Shanghai Gigafactory will also start production for the Chinese market. Production will be gradual, according to Musk, with capacity increased from mid-2020 and an eventual combined target of 500,000 Model 3 and Model Y built per year.
The Model Y takes design cues from both the Model 3 saloon and Model X large SUV, with a glass panoramic roof and optional seven-seat layout. It doesn’t feature the gullwing doors found on the more expensive Model X, using instead pillarless doors similar to those of the Model 3 and Model S.
The crossover is around 10% larger than the Model 3 – with which it shares a platform and as many as 75% of its components – putting it close to the BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC in size. Musk said that the Model Y had “the functionality of an SUV but rides like a sports car”, with a low centre of gravity and a drag coefficient of 0.23Cd.
The first versions to arrive will be the Long Range, Dual Motor and Performance models. The car is likely to arrive in the UK by 2022, based on previous Tesla model roll-outs globally.
The Long Range model will offer 315 miles of range, a 130mph top speed and a 5.5sec 0-60mph time, and will be priced from $47,000 (around £35,500). The Dual Motor will start from $51,000 (£38,500) and have a lower range of 280 miles, a higher top speed of 135mph and a 4.8sec 0-60mph time.
The Performance model also offers 280 miles of range, but its top speed is increased to 150mph and its 0-60mph sprint time reduced to 3.5sec. It will go on sale for $60,000 around (£45,000).
A Standard Range version will follow later in Spring 2021 for $39,000 (roughly £26,000), with a 230-mile range, a 120mph top speed and a 5.9sec 0-60mph time.
The Model Y is compatible with Tesla’s third-generation Superchargers, which are capable of 250kW charging. Cars will be able to recover 75 miles of range in five minutes, with a peak charging rate equivalent to 1000 miles for every hour. Tesla now has more than 12,000 Superchargers globally across 36 countries.
Inside, the Model Y has a similar interior layout to the Model 3, with a single 15.0in touchscreen interface containing all of the car’s controls, and no traditional instrument cluster. It also includes the same “self-driving” hardware, including Autopilot, which can be unlocked for a fee and upgraded wirelessly as new features gain approval from regulatory bodies.
Split-folding second-row seats and a front boot provide a maximum storage space of 1869 litres. Its rear hatchback should prove more convenient when loading than the Model 3’s tailgate.
The Model Y will likely prove pivotal to Tesla, because the worldwide demand for SUVs is significantly higher than it is for saloons. Musk predicted that Tesla would go on to sell more Model Ys than its other three models combined. The company opened pre-orders after revealing the car, with customers being asked for a $2500 deposit. Seven-seat versions won’t be available until 2021.
The company also faces new challenges from European car makers including Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, which are gearing up to launch their own premium SUVs. Similarly priced rivals, though, such as the Kia e-Niro and Hyundai Kona Electric, can’t match the Model Y’s range. Tesla recently announced a move to online-only sales and plans to close all its physical stores, but changed its decision following a customer and employee backlash.
The announcement of the Model Y came soon after the entry-level Model 3 went on sale in the US at $35,000 (£26,000) and the first left-hand-drive versions of the more expensive Model 3 Performance arrived in Europe.
Tesla will be hoping to avoid the manufacturing issues that plagued the Model 3, which suffered production bottlenecks for months following the car’s North American launch. Tesla has since recovered from these early setbacks and is on course to achieve its factory target of 10,000 cars per week. It’s now the world’s top-selling electric car, having sold more than 120,000 examples in the last year. Tesla aims to produce 2000 Model Ys per week by September 2020.