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The updated SUV returned to production only last fall, but plenty of questions remain.
Tesla’s refresh of the Model S and Model X, begun over a year ago, have not been without difficulties or controversy. The planned updates introduced slightly revised exteriors to the two older Tesla models, along with updated interiors including the yoke-style steering, but the changeovers took months to implement, the company largely citing supplier issues for the delays. The updated Model S materialized by the middle of the summer while the Model X took a while longer, reentering production without much fanfare this fall.
Fallout from the delays, however, was illustrated by Tesla report that it delivered a combined 24,964 Model S and Model X vehicles during 2021, compared to 911,208 Model 3 and Model Y vehicles. Even though Tesla does not share the exact numbers produced per model, the share of Model X vehicles produced is expected to be smaller than that of the Model S as production resumed much later in the year.
Depending on one’s perspective, Tesla had either successfully focused on its two best sellers at a time of unprecedented industry-wide difficulties linked to the chip shortage, or it had experienced significant delays with two models due to production changes that may not have been strictly necessary. The good news for Tesla is that it still managed to have a record year when it came to production and delivery numbers.
Last week Tesla CEO Elon Musk admitted on Twitter that it was the latter. In a response to a user’s question regarding Model X delivery times, the CEO cited interior trim and build difficulty as two of the reasons.
We dropped the ball badly regarding new Model X production ramp & still haven’t fully recovered. Was idiotic to stop production of old X in Dec 2020 when there was still plenty of demand!
The CEO’s surprise admission seemed to raise more questions than it answered. For instance, would Tesla have been able to produce and deliver a dramatically higher number of Model S and Model X vehicles in 2021 had it not embarked on giving the cars technical updates?
Some industry observers had opined in recent months that the issues with Model S and Model X production resulted from the volume of orders favoring producing a greater number of the less expensive vehicles, which obviously allows the automaker to report higher production and delivery numbers to shareholders. After all, the Model X is now six years old and costs over $100,000, so the annual number of orders could actually be consuming somewhat scarce resources that could be used on production of other vehicles. Also, the fact that Tesla’s Austin gigafactory has been prepared to produce the Model Y first, having entered production about a month ago according to the automaker, certainly points to some priorities that are being made.
Needless to say, the nearly year-long wait times quoted on Tesla’s website for the dual-motor Model X have their own effect of nudging buyers to a Model Y or Model 3 purchase, but how many sales are “converted” to the more readily available vehicles is unknown.
“Model X is an extremely difficult car to build. Most complex passenger car ever. Limiting factor is interior trim,” Musk added in the same Twitter thread.
The Tesla CEO also did not address the possibility of Tesla simply reverting to earlier versions of the Model X, if the updated version was in fact causing delivery delays, or retiring the model until an entirely new design was ready. Musk also did not elaborate on what issues Tesla was experiencing with the interior trim that was constraining its production.
As a number of industry observers have noted, these are strange problems to be having six years into the product cycle of an SUV originally based on an even older platform.
Model X production is still not expected to accelerate rapidly during 2022, with the company still quoting significant wait times for the vehicle, depending on trim level chosen. The dual-motor, AWD version of the Model X currently starts at $104,990, while the Model X Plaid starts at $126,490, prior to any discounts and destination charges.
Tesla has not indicated just when it may replace the Model X with an entirely new design, given the fact that the model has been in production since late 2015 and Tesla’s manufacturing methods have evolved quite a bit since then.
Should Tesla give the Model X a complete redesign, or does the current design still have a number of years left in it? Let us know in the comments below.