Tesla Model Y Will Not Be Based On Model 3 Platform

The Q&A session following every Tesla quarterly earnings call is the time when Tesla CEO Elon Musk likes to slip in little tidbits of information that no one was expecting. On the Q1 earnings call on May 3, Musk was asked if the Model Y crossover the company plans to build will be based on the Model 3 platform. The question got a terse “No,” from Musk.

Tesla Model Y
How similar will the Tesla Model Y be to the Tesla Model X? Source: Tesla

Wait, what? All this time, people assumed the long-awaited electric CUV from Tesla would be a Model 3 with a higher roofline and falcon-wing doors. Apparently, that is not meant to be, however.

The Model 3 will probably be an awesome car, but it is a sedan. Demand for sedans is cratering in the US and around the world as buyers clamor for more crossovers and SUVs. Sales of those vehicles is exploding so fast, even Toyota is wondering out loud if there is still a business case to be made for sedans.

Musk says boldly that Tesla will be building 1 million vehicles by 2020 and the Model Y is considered a critical part of making that prediction come true. “I think we need to come up with the Model Y sometime in 2020 or, aspirationally, late 2019. And then I think that 1 million units is quite likely — combined, yes. Maybe more,” Musk has said.

Why would Tesla spend the money and take the time to engineer a third vehicle platform when every other manufacturer is shrinking the number of platforms in use? It’s all about advances in manufacturing, apparently. Musk has spoken often about reinventing manufacturing, of building a better “machine that makes the machine,” one that can put things together faster and more efficiently using lots more robots.

“Then where things will really be a step change, I think, beyond any other auto manufacturer will be the Model Y factory. And this is both a function of designing the product to be easy to manufacture and easy to automate as well as designing the factory itself. So Model Y is where I think it really becomes a step change.”

Musk now says the Model Y will do away with the conventional 12 volt electrical system. Higher voltages require thinner wires. The Model 3 is said to use far less wiring than other cars. One of the reasons it will have only one visual display is to make manufacturing easier and further reduce the amount of wiring used in the car. Musk hasn’t said what the new electrical system will be, but 48 volt systems are being promoted by a number of automotive suppliers.

Some analysts worry that the public, which is known for being exceedingly fickle, may not be as enamored of the actual Model 3 once it arrives as they are of the thought of the Model 3. It is believed the company has as many as 500,000 reservations for the Model 3. The question is how many of those reservations will turn into actual orders.

The other factor is that by the time the Model Y gets here, electric SUVs/CUVs from other manufacturers like Jaguar, Audi, Volkswagen, and Kia will also be competing for attention in the marketplace. Some think the Tesla logo is all Musk will need to sell his 1 million cars a year, and those people could be right. “We’ll see,” said the Zen master.

Source: Motley Fool


Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.