Published September 18, 2012
By Jeff Cobb
Tesla has not said whether its smaller crossover would also receive falcon wing doors like this Model X has.
Over the next four years, Tesla Motors intends to keep itself very busy filling out a complete model line with a model suitable for everyone from average income earners to far above average.
By 2016, company co-founder Elon Musk said there will be a smaller crossover to share stable space with the Model X crossover due in 2014, an economical sedan intended to start at around $30,000 and be sort of a scaled-down Model S, and a range-topping supercar.
Previous rumblings from Tesla’s senior designer, Franz von Holzhausen, were an all-electric pickup truck could one day be in the offing as well, but in an interview with Wired magazine, Musk talked cars and crossovers.
Presently the Model S is only just rolling out, at last count, around the third week in August, production had crossed 100 units as the factory in Fremont Calif. learns how to hopefully do it right the first time – and avoid potential recalls – before it tries to speed up the process.
But speed up is what Tesla intends to do. Aside from the obvious need to flesh out a product line like a full fledged car company, Musk added the new models were needed to reach the economy of scale required to make Tesla’s new vehicle architecture profitable.
High on the priority list is to get a Tesla in more people’s hands by offering a sedan by 2015 priced down to the $30,000-and-up entry point. The company has not named it, but it is to be a competitor to teh likes of BMW's 3-Series, and of course, Tesla says it will be a better car just like it says its Model S is the worlds best sedan.
“In a lot of respects, it’ll be a scaled down Model S,” Musk told Wired. “Something like 20 to 25 percent smaller than the Model S” and included in the design will be the same hatchback feature incorporated into the sedan-styled Model S.
The smaller crossover to follow the Model X that Musk spoke of is projected to launch by 2016 along with a high-end sports car to take the place of the company’s first car, the Roadster, which was based on the Lotus Elise, and sold over 2,300 units worldwide.
The 2016 crossover was also not given a name in the interview. Only its target – another BMW, the X3 – was named. So, following the Model X, will this Tesla be an anti-X3? Probably not in name, but in intention, yes.
“We’ll do the X3 equivalent [crossover] and then a Roadster follow-up in parallel,” said Musk.
Musk’s ambitions to return a “Roadster follow-up” (supercar) to the lineup have been noted before, and this car he said will have “supercar performance, but not supercar pricing.” The assumption therefore is while the Roadster could sprint from 0-60 in under four seconds and top into the triple digits, this new car would be faster and quicker still, and if we're really talking "supercar," then 170 mph top speed might be considered an approximate entry point to this exclusive club.
How Tesla will do this should be interesting given the weight penalty inherent in a big powerful battery electric drivetrain. To compete with a Ferrari or Lamborghini, the company better find improved energy storage technology and economical ways to produce a lightened chassis if it is to undercut the beefy curb weight and beat the performance of the 4,500 pound Model S with 85-kwh battery.
But we know what some of you EV fans still sitting on the sidelines are thinking. Although others have said the “more intriguing” project is Tesla's supercar, you would rather see a “scaled down” model S priced like a Nissan Leaf, right?
Not to worry, said Musk, boasting the Leaf is not the target, but rather Tesla's entry level car will compete with BMW’s 3-Series as well as the Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class. At the moment this sounds remarkable to say the least given price penalties on EVs.
Frankly, $30-40,000 electric cars might be compared with higher end cars – the extended-range electric Chevy Volt for example does have fans who say it does – but more often EVs have been called over-priced electric versions of more economical cars.
But Musk promised Tesla’s entry level EV will “look great and perform better than anything in its price range.”
If this is so, it will be welcome news indeed.