Tesla Future Product Plan: What I’d Like To See

Future Product Plans: What I Would Like to See

Let me start this out by saying this is part rant, part critique of current products, part wishlist for future Tesla products. This is a long post.

After seeing the recent Model S and X refreshes, I was really disappointed. I hate the removal of the gear and turn signal stalks. Replacing them with small buttons that move as the wheel turns, or embedded in the screen, or below phone dock is not progress. I also find the yoke to ridiculous for a road going car. I am hoping these are short term changes to sell some more units of these 1st generation models until a new S/X are developed. Tesla needs new flagship models that are better in every way. The fastest accelerating sedan or MPV doesn’t matter to most people. Most cars sold will be LR+, not Plaid or Plaid+. The Plaid+ range estimate & acceleration figures are irrelevant to most car buyers, not only because most people aren’t spendng $140,000 on a car, but also because they don’t care about accelerating on public streets that fast.

The S was Tesla’s first real car. It was a bit of a hodgepodge of old Mercedes bits cobbled together with new Tesla bits. It has been on sale now for 10 model years. That makes it the oldest luxury sedan for sale in its price range. Under the skin they’ve improved cell chemistry, increased range, improved the motors, and efficiency, but the exterior and interiors have been pretty much untouched. That continues to the refresh S and X. IMO and most of the people I know that own a Tesla, is that the new interior is worse than the old one in many ways. It may be new, but it’s not improved. Nobody has said removing the turn signal or gear selector stalks is progress. The landscape screen is an improvement, but the new interior doesn’t look like it belongs in the same price range as a Mercedes S-Class, BMW 7-Series, Audi A8, or its direct competitors like the Taycan or upcoming e-tron GT, Lucid Air, etc.

It’s just not the interior I would want in my $100,000+ car, and I sure don’t see what looks like it costs $45K-$100K more than a Model 3.

My aunt wanted a Tesla because she’s environmentally conscious, and she never loved her current car, a Volvo XC60. So I let her drive my Model Y. She was a bit surprised it didn’t have a HUD and that you couldn’t even get one if you wanted. She asked if any Tesla had one and I said no, but the S and X do have a more traditional instrument binnacle in front of the steering wheel. She said she could live without a HUD if she had to, but looking to the right to read navigation instructions or her speed is uncomfortable. She also asked about surround-view cameras, another feature her Volvo has, but Tesla doesn’t offer.

Within 5 minutes of us starting to drive she got honked at by other drivers when she tried to change lanes. She asked why the BSM wasn’t working and I explained it was on, but Tesla doesn’t offer the visual warning every other company offers on the mirror. I told her she had to check her mirrors, then check the driving visualization. If she began to move over and a car was there it should show a red line and a red car, but that in my own experience it wasn’t always reliable. I explained that also meant it had no cross traffic detection, front or rear. She wanted to know why were these features missing from a brand new car that costs over $55,000. I told her Tesla doesn’t use the industry standard radar based blindspot monitoring. She said this car would cost $10,000 more than her Volvo XC60, but she felt like she would be downgrading. She said her Volvo’s cross traffic alert had saved her 5-10 times from getting hit by another car she couldn’t see when she was backing out of an alley into a road that had cars lined up completely obstructing any view of the road left or right. Even though nothing was visible in the rearview camera, the car detected other cars coming towards her, preventing her from continuing out into the road. As someone who has had that feature myself on various other cars dating back 6 years, it’s also a huge disappointment to me that Tesla still hasn’t incorporated that into their cars.

On cars as expensive as Model S and X, it’s downright egregious. What bothers me most is Elon’s constant “Tesla is the safest car you can be in” line, but in reality it’s not true. Maybe it’s the safest car if you are in a wreck, but I want a car that is most likely to prevent a wreck from occurring. We don’t only drive forward, and we don’t only drive on freeways. The majority of accidents occur within a few miles from home. That typically means you’re on a city street. A lot of these types of collisions are preventable, and the very sensors Tesla/Elon refuses to add to their cars are the ones that get used the most on every other brand of car. My home’s driveway is very hard to leave for the average person visiting. Even for me it’s a challenge sometimes. Whereas my Audi will provide me clear audible and visual warnings if someone is approaching from the left or right that I cannot see with my own eyes or in the camera, our Teslas do nothing.

At between $90,000-$145,000 for an S or X, it is hard for me to believe that people are perfectly okay to buy a car that lacks basic features found on cars that cost less than $25,000, such as a Nissan Sentra, Hyundai Accent, Kia Soul, VW Jetta, or Honda HR-V. No, those cars aren’t able to accelerate to 60MPH in under 2 seconds. I’ll give you that, but the average Model S I see driving has an old man behind the wheel and they’re going below the speed limit. I rarely see any Tesla driving fast (other than my own, lol).

Elon has said multiple times how many things he would like to change about the way the S and X are designed and manufactured because they are too expensive to produce, too complicated to easily build and they are both heavier than they have to be. If they would design the S and X today, I guarantee they would be much different cars. I don’t see why they’d invest the money in the recent refresh when they could’ve invested in all new models instead. Tesla still doesn’t have offerings in most of the high volume segments. Tesla still needs a competitor to the BMW X1/Mercedes GLA and GLB/Audi Q3, and the BMW X5/Mercedes GLE/Audi Q7.

The Model X is similarly sized to the X5 and GLE, but it costs as much as the substantially larger BMW X7 and Mercedes GLS. I know many people who have not bought a Model X for either the way it looks or the falcon wing doors. Add in the fact it is missing out on so many standard features found on mass market and luxury cars, and I don’t quite know what people see in it.

I also wonder if Tesla had ditched the falcon wing doors how many thousands of dollars could be cut off the price. It would drastically improve the body rigidity, crash safety, handling and ride quality, and reduce weight. It would also rid Tesla of the most expensive warranty item (MCU1 might have it beat now) on any Tesla. The falcon wing doors to this day are problematic. It’s a lot of useless complexity for what is essentially a minivan.

In my ideal future for Tesla these are the products they desperately need to grow their sales well beyond 1,000,000 units. I am think Tesla needs two brands: a luxury brand, and a mass market brand. Everyone from Toyota, Nissan, Honda, VW, GM, Ford, Hyundai, and FCA have mass market brands, and luxury brands. I don’t know of any brand that has been able to move large volumes of both luxury and mass-market cars under one brand.

———————————— Future Tesla portfolio:

  1. A traditionally styled Model Y alternative (think of a BMW X3, whereas Model Y is more akin to an X4). The X3 outsells the X4 by a multiple of 10. I think the same thing would be true if Tesla had a more traditional looking crossover. In my mind it would outsell the Y by 5:1 if they got the styling right. BMW, Mercedes and BMW all charge more for their “coupe SUVs” even though I find them all to be hideous. Without the steeply sloping rear, Tesla could offer much better luggage volume, push the third row seats back 6-8” so it would actually be usable for children that aren’t double amputees, and it would likely improve rear visibility. Rear visibility is poor in the Y. They need to add more equipment to these cars as I’ve already laid out. That’s true for any car I mention in this list.

If they could get entry level prices down to the high $30s for a RWD model with ~300 miles of usable highway range it would be flying off the lot so fast your head would spin. A lot of people are turned off by the Y’s exterior styling, especially the front end that appears quite bulbous and much like a bloated Model 3. Just like 3, the interior’s minimalistic styling is something you can either live with or you hate it. I believe Tesla can keep the simplistic overall scheme while increasing the feeling of quality, luxury and the feature content that is expected to be found on any luxury SUV in the 2020s. For Tesla to meet its goal of becoming the 21st century equivalent of Volkswagen, Toyota, GM or Ford, they will have to broaden the appeal of their cars beyond that of just what Tesla fan-club members find acceptable on current cars. That’s just reality. Little stuff like not offering Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, SiriusXM, radar based blindspot monitoring with cross traffic alert, 360° cameras, or a gauge cluster or heads up display directly in your line of sight are things people expect to be able to get in a new car. Not offering those things doesn’t increase Tesla’s desirability. I want Tesla to have the most desirable cars possible so more people buy them and we transition to EVs faster. As someone who has deep ties to the automotive world, I can assure you some of these features really matter to a wide percentage of the car buying public. While you may not care about them, many people do.

I have seen a lot of people on Reddit, Twitter and various other forums that are really hoping to like the VW ID.4, Nissan Ariya or Hyundai Ioniq 5. Many of them looked at the Model Y but just didn’t find it suited their tastes, or their budget or lacked features they deem essential on any new car that price. With so many new EVs getting ready to flood the market, Tesla cannot allow themselves to lose out on so many customers for features that are relatively inexpensive to engineer into the cars, or just involve software changes.

———————————————

  1. A subcompact crossover (Mercedes GLA, BMW X1, Audi Q3)

———————————————

  1. Midsize SUV to compete against BMW X5 / M-B GLE / Audi Q7. Entry level pricing around $55K for a 300 mile RWD model.

———————————————

  1. ALL NEW Model S that cranks up the luxury features, styling and technology to match its 6-figure price and to knock the socks off the upcoming EQS sedan, Taycan and Audi e-tron GT.

———————————————

  1. All new Model X to battle the GLS, X7, Rivian R1S, Lucid’s future EV suv, etc.

———————————————

Tesla Sub Brand:

Maybe Tesla could buy Nikola’s name out of bankruptcy for a few hundred dollars and call it that. Lol. These cars would likely have to wait for the 4680 cells to be at their peak production rate and lowest cost possible to make them profitable, however as Tesla increases their sales they will ultimately lower their costs through economies of scale. So, anyway, here’s my mass market list of must-haves to sell a ton of cars:

  1. Compact crossover like Hyundai Kona, Kia Niro, Honda HR-V, Nissan Rogue Sport, Toyota C-HR, upcoming VW Taos.

  2. Midsize crossover: Honda CR-V, VW Tiguan, Toyota RAV-4, Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, etc.

  3. Full-size SUV: VW Atlas, Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, Hyundai Palisade/Kia Telluride, Ford Explorer, etc.

  4. Compact sedan like a Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic.

  5. MAYBE… a family sedan, but the market is shrinking as more people move into SUVs. Maybe things will change as we transition to EVs, but I’m not sure about that.

  6. Pickup – TRADITIONALLY STYLED, true F-150/Silverado 1500/Ram 1500 rival. Think Rivian R1T, not Cybertruck, in terms of styling inside and out. I personally don’t know how the Cybertruck will be able to hit the specifications Elon claimed at the prices he quoted unless it’s delayed 3-5 years. I also think the exoskeleton is going to be a huge PITA. Paint is applied to every car, truck and other road going vehicles for a reason. Either paint it, or use plastic/carbon fiber/fiberglass exoskeletons instead of that steel. I can just see the steel turning colors, getting scratched and stained and being a complete nightmare to fix. While Cybertruck may have some appeal to Tesla diehard fans, and a small subset of people (Hummer buyers, for example), I don’t think it will ever be fighting the F-150 for best selling truck.


Ways to make this possible…

Companies like Audi are able to build all of their sedans and wagons (A4/A5/A6/A7/A8) plus their SUVs (Q5/Q7/Q8/e-tron, plus Porsche Macan, Cayenne, VW Touareg, Bentley Bentayga and Lamborghini Urus) all on one shared platform, called MLB. VW group sells around 10,000,000 cars per year. Of those, 95% of them are built on just two platforms… MLB and MQB. VW has now developed the MEB platform for their affordable electric cars like the ID.3, ID.4, ID.6, future VW Bus reboot, and various Seat and Škoda variants of each model, and Audi will use it to underpin some of their lower end EVs too. Like VW, Tesla could develop two cutting edge EV platforms that could underpin up to 10,000,000+ cars a year. The premium platform would be designed around double wishbone front suspension, better isolation from the road, a focus on luxury or performance, and may make use of higher percentages of aluminum, or even composite/carbon fiber members to reduce weight, increase rigidity and improve efficiency.

The affordable mass market cars would be fine using McPherson strut front suspension with multilink rear on larger/higher trim cars, while some of the lower end cars may make due with torsion bar rear suspension to reduce costs. It will be interesting to see how future affordable EVs are driven, either FWD or RWD as the standard single-motor layout. VW has decided to go back to its roots and go with RWD on the MEB.

Tesla may be able to standardize the Model 3/Y architecture and scale it up and down as needed in size, or it may not be flexible enough to do that. I don’t see why it couldn’t be.

I do know that for Tesla to hit the goal of selling MILLIONS of cars per year, they have to expand the lineup and appeal to more people. Tesla also has to rapidly improve their service experience, improve on their poor quality control, and stop releasing half baked cars. Tesla has been successful with Model 3, but the car is now 4 years old. Future Teslas need better styling, nicer interiors, and additional features in order to appeal to a broader car market. I also think Tesla needs to stop advertising full self driving until it has an actual product that is capable of doing what they claim. Elon has made promises that aren’t realistic.

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