One of the more popular Tesla rumors that has made its way through the community is the possibility of a refreshed design of the Model S and Model X. The two cars have had very minor cosmetic adjustments since their introduction in 2012 and 2015. While they contribute to Tesla’s quarterly sales and delivery figures, they are, in essence, sentimental vehicles. At least, that is what Tesla CEO Elon Musk said during a 2019 Tesla Earnings call. “To be totally frank, we’re continuing to make them more for sentimental reasons than anything else. They’re really of minor importance to the future,” Musk said.
Which begs the question: Why is Tesla planning a refresh of the two vehicles now, a year and a half after Musk called the S and X “sentimental” cars that had relatively minor importance to the future. While the Tesla community has certainly convinced itself that a newly designed Model S and Model X are on the way, there is the possibility that it isn’t even going to happen.
It all started when Tesla shut down Model S and Model X production lines in late 2020. The catalyst to all the rumors was that the company was upgrading production lines to handle the redesigned vehicles, and Tesla could agree upon the right modifications to make for the new models. It all makes sense of why many people jumped to “They’re refreshing the cars” right away. After all, the Model 3 just had an update of its own, and it was mostly cosmetic.
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However, the S and X have been around for so many years, with the only huge change being the nosecone modification. There have been many software updates and performance upgrades, but those apply to every Tesla vehicle, for the most part, with very few exceptions included.
The Model S and Model X production lines being shut down led to me getting nosy and calling my local showroom. I decided to give them a call because they’re always willing to talk about Tesla, and they’re so knowledgeable that it is nice to have a reasonable conversation with someone who knows what is going on within the community. According to who I spoke to, they received emails stating that the lines were being shut down for efficiency reasons. There was no hint toward a redesign of the Model S and Model X. Of course, Tesla isn’t going to tell the showroom associates and sales advisors this. It’s obviously going to stay among the company’s executives.
But if we dig into the efficiency of the Model S and Model X lines at Fremont, it makes a lot of sense. The Model S and Model X only accounted for 18,920 of the over 180,000 vehicles that Tesla delivered in Q4 2020. The car was only delivered 57,039 times for the full year, while Tesla delivered just shy of half a million cars in total.
Does it make sense to have two production lines dedicated to cars making up only around 12-13% of the total output at Fremont? Could these lines be consolidated into one, with the other line being converted to a 3/Y line? This would alleviate some of the supply constraints that Tesla has with Model 3 and Model Y production. It could enable faster deliveries as demand climbs, and it could enable Tesla to be more efficient in its production of the S and X moving forward.
Musk has been a huge proponent of increasing manufacturing and production efficiency. It makes a lot of sense to me that Tesla would consider shutting down S/X lines to upgrade one line to a 3/Y line; the demand for S/X just isn’t great enough to dedicate two lines to the operation. 3/Y production is much more important.
This is all speculation, and while I do think that Tesla will upgrade and update the S and X in some ways, I don’t see how they can make major changes, especially since the company has already announced and shown the Model S Plaid, which is set to begin deliveries later this year. If Tesla were to refresh the S, there would be a major cause for concern for those who already ordered the Plaid S because it would likely mean a new vehicle would be on its way that would look entirely different than the current Plaid Model S.
It just seems like IF Tesla is going to refresh the S, they will widen the body style as the Plaid Model S has influenced. It will likely not have the rear diffuser or the spoiler. It may just be a wider body style.
Of course, Tesla will also likely implement the 4680 battery cells in the cars, which would revamp the battery pack with more life, power, and longevity. That is if Tesla has the supply for it because the company is still very early on in its battery manufacturing efforts at Kato Road. It is not unlikely that the S and X could be the first cars to use Tesla’s structural battery pack to increase safety and rigidity. Once again, these are all speculation and only thoughts that make sense.
Of course, there is always the possibility that Tesla could be attempting to rebirth the S/X with a complete revamp of its design and infrastructure. It could lead to a less expensive cost. Tesla having 4 vehicles that are mass-market instead of 2 could bring Tesla closer to price parity, increasing the growth of the EV sector. How they will do this, it likely depends on the batteries, which make up so much of the vehicle’s cost. However, the cars will likely need some kind of cosmetic update as well to appeal to customers moving forward. The 3 and Y seem to be more widely accepted, not only because of price but because of look.
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