More than a few industry observers have questioned whether Tesla Motors made a mistake making the insanely complicated Model X SUV rather than concentrating on bringing its less expensive Model 3 to sedan as soon as possible. During the press conference announcing the company’s fourth quarter financial performance, Elon Musk indicated that he had heard the rumblings and he had a few words for his detractors.
“Model X is an amazing car. [It] is the best car ever,” said Musk. “I’m not sure anyone’s going to make a car like this ever again. I’m not sure Tesla would make a car like this again.” He admitted that, in retrospect, Tesla may have got caught up in the moment when it ladled innovative feature after innovative feature onto the Model X. The car that was supposed to be a derivation of the Model S turned out to have more than 60% new pieces.
In a rare moment of humility for the high profile Tesla chairman, Musk admitted that the challenges of getting the Model X into production were “excruciating.” There were many, many late nights and working weekends involved. Given a chance to do it again, he said it might have been a better idea to get the Model X to market sooner and add some of its more stunning new technology later.
Tesla has done precisely that with its Model S sedan. That car was on sale for nearly 2 years before the company began adding the cameras, radar, and sensors needed to make its Autopilot suite of autonomous driving features possible. In fact, a process of continuous improvement is central to the Tesla way of doing business. Musk says as many as 20 small changes are added to the Model S every week.
Asked what the mix between Model S and Model X would be, Musk told the audience that would be up to its customers. He said Model X production should be in the 600 to 800 cars a week range by the start of the second quarter, according to Teslarati. Once there are enough of them in Tesla stores so that customers can feel and touch and drive one, buyers will make the decision whether the S or the X fits their lifestyle best. Elon said he personally prefers to drive a Model S, but recognizes that many people prefer the higher seating and extra room available in the Model X.