Tesla’s $25,000 car and the company’s dedicated robotaxi past will both feature a design that’s inspired by the Cybertruck. This was, at least, according to Musk biographer Walter Isaacson.
Citing an excerpt from Isaacson’s upcoming book, Axios noted that Musk was so focused on self-driving robotaxis that it took the collective effort of Tesla executives to persuade him to pursue an affordable car as well. As noted by the publication, the CEO only relented when his aides revealed a plan to build both the $25,000 car and Tesla’s robotaxi side by side.
Tesla is aiming to reach 20 million vehicles per year in 2030. To achieve such a goal, the company would need a vehicle that it could build quickly at scale. This means that Tesla needs a car that would far exceed the Model 3 sedan and Model Y crossover in output. Tesla’s next-generation platform, which was discussed during Investor Day earlier this year, seems designed for this purpose.
As per Isaacson, Musk gathered his top five lieutenants for dinner in Austin for a brainstorming session in November 2021. The agenda for the day was a basic robotaxi that could be produced in high volumes. Musk and his team would reportedly end up debating for almost a year whether they should play it safe and build a car with traditional controls, or opt for a vehicle that’s all-in on autonomy, with no steering wheel or pedals.
Several Tesla engineers reportedly pushed for a more conservative approach. Tesla Chief Designer Franz von Holzhausen, during a meeting on August 18, 2022, even suggested that the robotaxi could be a vehicle with steering wheels and pedals that could be removed later. “If we go down a path of having no steering wheel, and FSD is not ready, we won’t be able to put them on the road,” the Chief Designer said.
Musk, however, was reportedly adamant. “No mirrors, no pedals, no steering wheel. This is me taking responsibility for this decision,” Musk reportedly said. The CEO also highlighted Tesla’s focus on autonomy. “Let me be clear. This vehicle must be designed as a clean robotaxi. We’re going to take that risk. It’s my fault if it f–ks up. But we are not going to design some sort of amphibian frog that’s a halfway car. We are all in on autonomy,” Musk said.
Musk would later relent, however, following a meeting in September 2022. During the meeting, von Holzhausen and several others presented data indicating that a small, “global car” would be needed for Tesla to achieve its ambitious growth targets. The team also convinced the CEO that both the $25,000 car and the robotaxi could be built on the same next-generation platform. Both vehicles could be produced using the same assembly lines as well.
Ultimately, Musk was reportedly convinced of the $25,000 car after von Holzhausen placed models of the $25,000 Tesla and the robotaxi side by side in Tesla’s Design Studio. Both vehicles were unlike other cars on the road today. As per Isaacson, both vehicles had a futuristic design that was inspired by the Tesla Cybertruck. Musk loved the vehicles.
“When one of these comes around a corner, people will think they are seeing something from the future,” Musk said.
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