Tesla China may have hit its pace with the ramp of the Model 3, but the company is still yet to release what could very well be its most disruptive vehicle yet, the Model Y crossover. But if recent sightings and local reports are any indication, it appears that the Made-in-China Model Y’s local launch may be imminent.
As noted in a report from the South China Morning Post, a Model Y test unit was recently spotted being transported in a highway in Yancheng, Jiangsu province. The vehicle, which appeared to have a camouflage wrap, was later confirmed to have been produced at Gigafactory Shanghai by two industry officials who were reportedly familiar with the electric car maker’s local operations. This suggests that while construction in Giga Shanghai’s Phase 2 area is ongoing, a pilot line for Model Y production is already operational, at least to some degree.
The presence of a locally-produced Model Y test unit in China is a notable update for Tesla and its efforts to bring the all-electric crossover to the local market. The company, after all, is expected to start producing and delivering the vehicle en masse to local customers by the first quarter of 2021. Considering that sample vehicles are now being produced from Gigafactory Shanghai, there seems to be a good chance that initial Model Y deliveries, perhaps to local employees, may be possible by the end of the year.
Tesla China actually accomplished a similar feat last year, when the first phase of Gigafactory Shanghai was under construction. Back then, images of Made-in-China Model 3 in trial assembly lines started emerging in the third quarter, and by Q4 2019, the company was already in the process of preparing the all-electric sedan for consumer release. Before the end of 2019, Tesla China was able to conduct a handover ceremony for the locally-made Model 3s, though the vehicles were for the company’s employees. A launch of the vehicle to local customers was conducted in early 2020.
Gao Shen, a Shanghai-based independent analyst covering the manufacturing sector, noted in a statement that the Model Y may very well be a successful vehicle in China, especially since its sibling, the Model 3 sedan, has been received warmly by the local market. In June alone, Tesla China delivered 14,954 Model 3, representing 23% of the country’s total sales of pure electric cars, according to data from the China Passenger Car Association. The competition was not close, either, as BYD, in second place, only sold 4,106 units of its EV3.
“Based on its prices, Model Y is set to grab share from the existing domestic premium electric vehicle builders. The new Model Y will be a stern challenge to the Chinese rivals,” Shen said.
Tesla has opened Model Y reservations in China in June, pricing the Long Range version at 488,000 yuan (US$71,200) and the Performance version at 535,000 yuan (US$78,400). These prices place the Model Y among the country’s premium electric vehicles, though Tesla has noted that the cost of its vehicles in China may very well experience reductions due to the increasing use of materials from local suppliers. The vehicle is also expected to qualify for a 25,000 yuan (US$3,600) government subsidy, making the Model Y even more attractive to local customers.