I Hate The Tesla Model X, And Why It Will Sell Well


There are days I wake up and think to myself “Curse you Elon Musk for making the world’s coolest electric car that nobody can afford!” I have a love-hate relationship with Tesla Motors, you see. I love how their electric cars are oriented towards luxury and performance, which is a far cry from how most EV manufacturers marketed their cars (Save the trees with EVs!)But I’m not going to own one anytime soon.

I’m also probably not going to ever be able to afford a $50,000 Tesla Model S, or their just-revealed Model X crossover. As Mitt Romney would say, I’m just envious. But who doesn’t feel a pang of envy when we see a nicer car, or a bigger house, or a fatter wallet? That was why I waited a few days before waxing poetic on the Tesla Model X; do I hate it because I am just jealous, or is it because Tesla has built a car that it knows will sell well, but is aimed squarely at the soccer moms of America?The thing is, as much as I hate the fact that Tesla got government money to produce luxury cars for the nation’s wealthiest citizens, I also believe Tesla is probably the best hope electric vehicle’s have of gaining a following in America. And it all hinges on the falcon-wing doors of the Model X crossover, which I have decided is a brilliant car that it is OK to hate.

Elon Musk says that the Model X will be Tesla’s highest-volume vehicle, and if history is any indication of the future (and it usually is) Americans are just waiting for gas prices to go back down so they can buy trucks and SUV’s again. Except gas prices aren’t going down; they’re going up, again, 12-cents in the last three weeks. Despite how you may feel about global warming and climate change, it can be hard to justify a 20 mpg SUV that can cost upwards of $100 per fill-up.

But soccer mom’s still want the perception of safety in their steel cocoons on wheels. There are still people out there buying Cadillacs, Mercedes, Lexus, and BMW crossovers, and many of those vehicles can easily top $60,000 with a few option packages. But can they offer the performance of the Tesla Model X, which Elon Musk claims can hit 60 mph in 4.4 seconds? Maybe they can…but do they have the Tesla’s EV credibility? Nope, and if there is one thing hanging around rich folk has taught me, most of them put a lot of money and effort into appearances. Auto ownership is still an important cornerstone of the American Dream, and people perceive things about you based on what you drive. That’s just a fact, whether you like it or not.

The Tesla Model X, with a range about 10% less than the Model S due to a weight that is about 10% more, should top out between 290 and 300 miles with the 85 kWh battery pack. The only other battery pack option is a 60 kWh pack, which should allow for between 230 and 240 miles on a full charge, and all-wheel drive will also be an option for those who contend with awful weather. That kind if range will cover 95% of trips for most people, though the Model X will be limited in that long family trips will either require regular pit stops or a slow-and-steady pace. Tesla is installing a “supercharger highway” in California, which will probably benefit a lot of Tesla Model X buyers…but not all of them.

So it’s strange to me that Tesla would go for a large, seven-passenger crossover with trunks at both the front and rear, even though this really is not a long-range vehicle, even with the 85 kWh battery pack. Then again, somebody who can afford a Model X probably already has at least one other cars, and for most trips, an electric vehicle rarely exceeds 30 miles. That’s only about one-tenth of the 85 kWh battery pack’s capabilities, and most soccer moms can probably work within those limitations.

The cool factor surrounding electric vehicles is working its way through the youth and the wealthy alike. Maybe that is why the “falcon-wing” rear doors feel so much like pandering to the crowd. While Musk claims these days offer more utility than the traditional sliding-door of a minivan, I can see these doors posing a problem in places with low overhead. But again, most people who are likely to be able to afford a Model X also probably have a decent-sized garage.

I don’t like the bloated looks of the Model X either, but I doubt that will deter many buyers. Just look at the SUV’s from a mere five years ago; Escape, Explorer, Expedition, and Excursion were uninspired styling at its zenith, but Ford couldn’t sell enough of them. If gas prices went down, I guarantee that Americans would flock back to trucks and SUV’s without a second thought. The Model X offers the SUV experience, without the cost of gas or guilt.

Alas, Tesla will probably be forced to ditch the falcon-wing doors and rear-view cameras that replace the standard side-view mirrors, which bothers me because who knows how much time and money they spent on these two technologies? Even though this is a prototype, the Model X shares a platform with the Model S, so what you see here is probably very close to a production model.

All told, Tesla is playing to its strengths, which gives me hope that they may just manage to survive, and even thrive, in the years ahead. Alas, Musk says that the announcement of its next model, a lower-priced, higher-volume model, is still 18 to 24 months away from announcement. Not that I am likely to be able to afford that either…but maybe one day.

Until then, I hate Tesla for making a crossover that is obviously aimed at people that aren’t me, and for selling a sedan and roadster that I’d love to own but can’t afford. But I think the Model X will probably do better than even Musk suspects; it’s all the SUV that soccer moms want, without the $4-a-gallon fuel. That sounds like a sales winner to me.

For more details on the Tesla Model X, check out the Tesla Motor’s website.

About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.
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  • james

    Can’t wait to see those soccer moms pulling 0-60 in 4.4.

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  • If I see so much as one of those mofo’s dawdling off the line from ANY light in LA, I swear to god I’ll… The problem with quoting acceleration specs on EV’s is that if it has one of those infernal efficiency monitors like the Prius, it will make most people drive (and accelerate) more slowly. Even though they’ll never come close to running out of juice in their normal driving. Thanks so much for writing this. I agree, it’d be nice to see something sexy out of Tesla, but alas, practically every company has to build some mass-market beige crap to stay afloat.

  • Dave

    Good article. Just wanted to comment on the line “Tesla got government money to produce luxury cars for the nation’s wealthiest citizens”. I guess you could argue this but it would be more accurate to say Tesla secured a DOE loan to produce the Model S and a powertrain factory. It’s a loan so it will be paid back and I have confidence they will pay it back. Also, while Tesla makes very expensive cars, they are in the price range of the more expensive BMWs and Mercedes cars that many people drive. I guess it depends on how you define ‘wealthiest citizens’ but I’ve seen plenty of upper middle class people driving around a BMW 5 series or a $50,000+ SUV.

    • @ Dave

      Any car that costs more than the median income for the wealthiest nation on Earth is without a doubt a luxury item.

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  • Boris

    Hi Guys .
    The REAL problem here is that those money are 10 time the REAL PRISE OF THIS CAR .
    And those FUNNY PROBLEMS WITH BATTERY ……COME ON …..we are EXPLORING MARS and some stupid car can`t go 500 km or more with one charge ????
    LUCKY BELIEVERS ……..I am not from those SHEEPS .
    We are allready 21st Century ………they are STOPING PROSPERATION OF WHOLE WORLD .

    Sometime I wonder to whom they are making those toys ?
    Oh yesss ………..for BELIEVERS ……YESSS YESSS …..I FORGOT .

  • Zach

    How many people can afford a 2012 Cadillac Escalade, yet I still see them on the road? Your just upset that you can’t afford Tesla’s product. $50,000 is an affordable car these days, granted they cost around $500 a month, people with jobs will buy them. BTW BORIS, NASA is a space exploration company, not an automotive company. I would like to see you try and make a car that will travel more than 500km on one charge. That is what is wrong with people these days, your so dependent on other people to make things for you, but you bitch when you don’t like it. Start your own business and make cars, see how many people buy your product. Hopefully you fail and you’ll learn to shut your mouth and get on with life.

  • Jenn

    Don’t like the price of a Tesla, but want a production electric car? Try the Mitsubishi i MiEV – the electric car for the other 99%!

    Thanks to the “the nation’s wealthiest citizens” for being early adopters and helping this technology get off the ground until it reaches critical mass and production becomes more affordable, and for employing around 1000 people at Tesla in the US in the process – people that are paying income taxes instead of sucking up unemployment.

    By the way, not everyone is envious when they see a nicer car or a bigger house or a fatter wallet. Money and material things are not the most important things in life once you have enough to meet your basic needs. I bet if you had a Tesla, you would not find yourself any happier in the long run – you would just envy the person with two Teslas. There is no end to that cycle.

    • @ Jenn

      Money may not buy happiness, but fast cars always put a smile on my face.

      Just sayin’.

  • Me

    fyi: 300 Mi = 480 km which is pretty damn close to your 500km range you speak of.. just saying…

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  • Tristan Rhodes

    No need to feel bad about Tesla making high-end cars for the wealthy.  Have you read Tesla’s secret plan?  “When someone buys the Tesla Roadster sports car, they are actually helping pay for development of the low cost family car.”

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  • Frank

    20 mpg SUV?? Your information is false. Try over 80 mpg!!