I think it is safe to say that without government money, Tesla Motors would probably not exist today. And the grants just keep coming, as news came out late last week that the state of California granted Elon Musk’s electric car company a new $10 million grant to develop the upcoming Tesla Model X SUV in the Golden State.
The Tesla Model X was unveiled as a concept back in February with its unique “falcon-wing” doors and an electric drivetrain similar to the Model S sedan. Aimed squarely at wealthy soccer moms, the Tesla Model X recorded 500 reservations in the first four days, and by now has thousands of reservations for a car that isn’t set to go on sale until the end of 2014.
The $10 million grant from California will help Tesla Motors upgrade and improve the former NUMMI automotive plant, where the electric car maker has created around 1,500 jobs. Tesla is putting up another $50 million of its own cash for development of the Model X, which will have a similar range and performance of the Model S sedan it shares many components with.
Pricing is expected to be in the same range as well, between $60,000 and $90,000. A performance model with a sub 4-second 0 to 60 mph time is being developed as well. In other words, the Tesla Model X isn’t the electric supercar Elon Musk is mulling; nor is it the affordable BMW 3-series fighter Musk has promised.
It is, however, a bridge to a very important group of buyers; California moms. The Tesla Model X will prove an important vehicle to this demographic, many of whom don’t bat an eye at spending tens of thousands of dollars on an upscale SUV, since they are the ones shuttling kids to soccer practice, the movies, and theatre group on a daily basis.
While $10 million isn’t a huge sum when it comes to making a car, every little bit helps, especially with Tesla coming under fire from every angle, from the right-wing media to dealership lobbies. But the most important question of all…will the falcon-wing doors remain?