Tesla’s chief executive Elon Musk has given preview of its upcoming Model Y small SUV and a so far nameless electric truck, as it prepares to deliver its first cheaper Model 3 electric saloons.
During the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting, Musk released a teaser image of the Model Y, which will be available in the 2019-2020 time frame and follow on from its larger SUV, the Model X. Musk said the Model Y would use a new platform building on the improvements made to existing models.
One of the new models to benefit from improvements since the original release of the Model S in 2012 is the more affordable Model 3, Tesla’s attempt at mass-market electric car. The Model 3 is expected to cost from $35,000 in the US, putting it in the same bracket as the BMW 3 series.
Musk said that Model 3 production is on track to start next month, and that vehicles should be delivered to those first in line for the pre-orders soon after. Tesla is aiming to make 5,000 Model 3s per week by the end of this year and 10,000 per week in 2018. The company hasn’t said how many people have putdown $1,000 refundable deposits for the Model 3, but Musk said people who put down a deposit now won’t get a car until the end of 2018, indicating it could be close to 500,000.
The biggest challenge for Tesla will be around meeting mass-market production. It has faced manufacturing delays with previous models, including the latestModel X SUV which was nearly 18 months late. Musk said it was “crazy hard” to make cars and that Tesla had learned a lesson from the complexity of previous models. The Model 3 would be much simpler to make, not least because only the colour of the car and the size of the wheels would be customisable from the beginning rather than having a plethora of customisation options that would increase the time required to make the cars.
The 14-year-old Tesla has no experience producing and selling vehicles in high volumes, making just 84,000 cars last year compared with rivals such as GM, Volkswagen and Toyota, which routinely sell more than 10m per year.
Once the Model 3 is on the road in quantity, Tesla will also face servicing and charging troubles. The company said that it would increase the number of stores and service centres by 30% this year, but at the start of 2017 it had just 250 worldwide
Musk says a new fleet of mobile service trucks will be deployed and that Tesla plans to double its global high-speed “Supercharger” power points to 10,000 by the end of this year and increase them by another 50-100% in 2018.
Tesla is also seeking to break into freight transportation with a new all-electric semi truck, which is due to be unveiled at the end of September. Musk said that Tesla was currently shopping designs around to large freight firms with positive reactions and that the firm would have more than just truck news to share later this year.