Tesla Model Y hits right note by playing it safe

The ho-hum reaction to Tesla’s new electric SUV is, oddly enough, exactly what the company needs.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk delivered no surprises Thursday night when he revealed the company’s brand new electric SUV, the Model Y.

But for a company that needs a little less pizzazz and a little more substance to make good on its promise to become a sustainable force in the auto industry, the Model Y hit the right marks.

It’s essentially a crossover version of the Tesla Model 3 compact car, bearing the design hallmarks of a hatchback and sharing the same architectural platform as its car sibling.

That Tesla devotees weren’t rewarded with sizzling new features on the Model Y illustrates that the company is getting serious about selling vehicles.

After all, a compact SUV is precisely what Americans want: a driveable vehicle that puts safety first and flash second.

Versions with five and seven seats will be available, with starting prices ranging from $39,000 for the base version to $60,000 for a performance model.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+LinkedInTesla adds the Y to “S3XY” FullscreenPost to FacebookPosted!

A link has been posted to your Facebook feed.

A handout photo made available by US automobile manufacturer Tesla, showing the new Tesla Model Y electric car. Model Y is an all-electric, mid-size SUV, starting at 39,000 USD for the standard version and 47,000 USD for the long-range version has a range of 300 miles.A handout photo made available by US automobile manufacturer Tesla, showing the new Tesla Model Y electric car. Model Y is an all-electric, mid-size SUV, starting at 39,000 USD for the standard version and 47,000 USD for the long-range version has a range of 300 miles. Tesla via EPA-EFEFullscreenTesla CEO Elon Musk jokingly motions to kick before introducing the Model Y at Tesla's design studio Thursday, March 14, 2019, in Hawthorne, Calif. The Model Y may be Tesla's most important product yet as it attempts to expand into the mainstream and generate enough cash to repay massive debts that threaten to topple the Palo Alto, Calif., company.Tesla CEO Elon Musk jokingly motions to kick before introducing the Model Y at Tesla’s design studio Thursday, March 14, 2019, in Hawthorne, Calif. The Model Y may be Tesla’s most important product yet as it attempts to expand into the mainstream and generate enough cash to repay massive debts that threaten to topple the Palo Alto, Calif., company. Jae C. Hong, APFullscreenTesla CEO Elon Musk walks beside the new Tesla Model Y at its unveiling in Hawthorne, Calif. on March 14, 2019. Tesla introduced a new electric sports utility vehicle slightly bigger and more expensive than its Model 3, pitched as an electric car for the masses. Tesla chief executive Elon Musk showed off the "Model Y" late Thursday, March 14, 2019, at the company's design studio in the southern California city of Hawthorne, and the company began taking orders online. Tesla CEO Elon Musk walks beside the new Tesla Model Y at its unveiling in Hawthorne, Calif. on March 14, 2019. Tesla introduced a new electric sports utility vehicle slightly bigger and more expensive than its Model 3, pitched as an electric car for the masses. Tesla chief executive Elon Musk showed off the “Model Y” late Thursday, March 14, 2019, at the company’s design studio in the southern California city of Hawthorne, and the company began taking orders online. Frederic J. Brown, AFP/Getty ImagesFullscreenThe new Tesla Model Y electric car.The new Tesla Model Y electric car. Tesla via EPA-EFEFullscreenPeople get into Tesla's Model Y for a test drive at the company's design studio Thursday, March 14, 2019, in Hawthorne, Calif. People get into Tesla’s Model Y for a test drive at the company’s design studio Thursday, March 14, 2019, in Hawthorne, Calif. Jae C. Hong, APFullscreenPeople wait in line for entry to see the unveiling of the new Tesla Model Y at the Tesla Design Center in Hawthorne, California, on March 14, 2019. People wait in line for entry to see the unveiling of the new Tesla Model Y at the Tesla Design Center in Hawthorne, California, on March 14, 2019. Frederic J. Brown, AFP/Getty ImagesFullscreenTesla Model Y.Tesla Model Y. Tesla via EPA-EFEFullscreenPeople view a model of the new Tesla Model Y unveiled earlier in Hawthorne, Calif. on March 14, 2019.People view a model of the new Tesla Model Y unveiled earlier in Hawthorne, Calif. on March 14, 2019. Frederic J. Brown, AFP/Getty ImagesFullscreenInterested in this topic? You may also want to view these photo galleries:ReplayA handout photo made available by US automobile manufacturer Tesla, showing the new Tesla Model Y electric car. Model Y is an all-electric, mid-size SUV, starting at 39,000 USD for the standard version and 47,000 USD for the long-range version has a range of 300 miles.1 of 8Tesla CEO Elon Musk jokingly motions to kick before introducing the Model Y at Tesla's design studio Thursday, March 14, 2019, in Hawthorne, Calif. The Model Y may be Tesla's most important product yet as it attempts to expand into the mainstream and generate enough cash to repay massive debts that threaten to topple the Palo Alto, Calif., company.2 of 8Tesla CEO Elon Musk walks beside the new Tesla Model Y at its unveiling in Hawthorne, Calif. on March 14, 2019. Tesla introduced a new electric sports utility vehicle slightly bigger and more expensive than its Model 3, pitched as an electric car for the masses. Tesla chief executive Elon Musk showed off the "Model Y" late Thursday, March 14, 2019, at the company's design studio in the southern California city of Hawthorne, and the company began taking orders online. 3 of 8The new Tesla Model Y electric car.4 of 8People get into Tesla's Model Y for a test drive at the company's design studio Thursday, March 14, 2019, in Hawthorne, Calif. 5 of 8People wait in line for entry to see the unveiling of the new Tesla Model Y at the Tesla Design Center in Hawthorne, California, on March 14, 2019. 6 of 8Tesla Model Y.7 of 8People view a model of the new Tesla Model Y unveiled earlier in Hawthorne, Calif. on March 14, 2019.8 of 8AutoplayShow ThumbnailsShow CaptionsLast SlideNext Slide

If Musk had tried to break new technological barriers or adopt outlandish styling on the Model Y, he would have risked making the vehicle too difficult to manufacture and unappealing to conventional SUV buyers.

I’m kind of disappointed the Model Y looks exactly like the Model 3…

— niclacoste (@niclacoste) March 15, 2019 .oembed-frame { width: 100%; height: 100%; margin: 0; border: 0; }

 

“The Model Y appears to be exactly what Tesla needs it to be — and SUV version of the Model 3,” said Mike Ramsey, an analyst at technology research firm Gartner who tracks Tesla, in an email. “With a lower cost and better range, I expect it will be very popular.”

Musk, in fact, predicted that the Model Y will eventually outsell the Model 3, Model X SUV and Model S sedan combined. 

That would require sales to soar well over half a million vehicles. J.D. Power reports that Americans purchased 1.4 million SUVs in the range of $40,000 to $90,000 in 2018.

Tesla's Model Y is displayed at Tesla's design studio on Thursday, March 14, 2019, in Hawthorne, Calif. (Photo: Jae C. Hong, AP)

The first-available model will start at $47,000 and arrive in fall 2020. You can place a refundable deposit of $2,500 to secure your place in line when the vehicle becomes available.

The base model of the Model Y — the $39,000 version — won’t be available until “sometime in 2021,” Musk said.

I'm going to say it now, even though at the moment its unpopular. I like the new Tesla model Y. I think if they can deliver it in 2020 and 2021 with a good quality build I see it being very popular. I know people are kind of disappointed it doesn't look crazy cool but its solid.

— Jason Benner (@JasonBenner7) March 15, 2019

Stayed up past my bedtime to watch the Tesla Model Y unveil event. SO pumped for the future of electric vehicles. What a time to be alive!! @Tesla@elonmusk

— Kayla Elles (@kaylamelles) March 15, 2019

Families can make the Model Y their primary vehicle since the battery range goes from 230 miles to 300 miles depending on the version. That stacks up well against other EVs on the market, such as the Chevrolet Bolt’s 238 and the Hyundai Kona’s 258.

And while techies might not find the Model Y exhilarating, it will come equipped with software and sensors capable of autonomous driving, whenever it becomes legal. But buyers will have to pay for the system upgrade of $3,000 to $5,000.

New Tesla features: Tesla CEO Elon Musk reveals electric SUV

What it’s like to buy and own a Tesla: Has this Model 3 owner’s yearning been fulfilled?

The biggest challenge for Tesla is convincing buyers to wait for the Model Y. Shoppers aren’t accustomed to waiting a year and a half for a new ride — especially not if they need to replace their primary vehicle.

But for anyone who wants to feel the Tesla buzz for the first time, it might be worth the wait.

There’s one big caveat, however: Tesla is famous for missing its own production goals. Is the company capable of delivering on time?

“We remain concerned about the manufacturing timeline,” Sanford Bernstein analyst A.M. (Toni) Sacconaghi, Jr. wrote Friday.

The Tesla Model Y SUV. (Photo: Tesla)

The Model 3 production ramp-up in 2017 and 2018 was very slow, causing steep losses and raising questions about Tesla’s future. The company eventually figured it out, though critics have noted lingering quality challenges that caused Consumer Reports to drop its recommendation of the car.

“I really think the difficulty and value of manufacturing is underappreciated,” Musk said Thursday. “It’s relatively easy to make a prototype and extremely difficult to mass manufacture a vehicle reliably and at scale.”

If he’s absorbed those lessons the hard way, then the Model Y could stay on schedule.

Dan Ives, stock analyst at Wedbush Securities, suggested that Tesla might have learned not to over promise.

NEWSLETTERSGet the Managing Your Money newsletter delivered to your inboxWe’re sorry, but something went wrongA collection of articles to help you manage your finances like a pro.Please try again soon, or contact Customer Service at 1-800-872-0001.Delivery: FriInvalid email addressThank you! You’re almost signed up for Managing Your MoneyKeep an eye out for an email to confirm your newsletter registration.More newsletters//staticassets.gannettdigital.com/gci-static-assets/assets/global/static-web/right-arrow@2x.png“>

“We believe Tesla is being conservative with its targets to avoid any of the well-documented production headaches it faced with the Model 3 coming out,” Ives wrote Friday.

Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *