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Tesla sedan to spawn SUV, roadster and van

Hot ticket: The Tesla Model S electric-powered family car is in hot demand.

American EV maker reveals three new electric models as Tesla nears public float

24 Jun 2010

PIONEERING electric sportscar maker Tesla has revealed plans to use its forthcoming Model S sedan as the basis for three all-new models, including a roadster, crossover and even a commercial van.

The audacious Californian EV maker’s ambitious future product plans were revealed in a US ‘road show’ presentation by Tesla CEO Elon Musk last week, in the lead up to the company’s initial public share offering.

The exact price of the first 11.1 million Tesla shares – which will be underwritten by JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank - will be announced next week, but is expected to be between $US14 and $US16.

Mr Musk revealed that production of the Model S, which will now take place at the NUMMI plant in Fremont not far from Tesla headquarters, has been delayed until 2012 and that until then company will not make money from building electric vehicles once production of the Tesla Roadster ceases in 2011.

The right-hand drive version of Tesla’s Roadster has now received official Australian Design Rule approval and will go on sale here in August, when Australia joins Tesla’s wholly owned distribution network.

The Roadster is now available in 25 countries but Tesla plans to have a global retail network in place before the Model S is rolled out worldwide in 2013, following the establishment of UK and Asian outlets this year.

Mr Musk promised the Model S will offer benchmark design, technology and quality in the premium vehicle market, which he predicted would eventually be populated with models powered exclusively by electricity.

Before then, however, the flamboyant Tesla chief said all three new Model S sedan-based models – each of which will share a common platform and electric powertrain - would be “frickin’ bad-arse”.

“We’ve designed it (the Model S platform) to be readily accessible to a wide range of cars and each one of these cars is going to be a frickin’ bad-arse,” he said during the IPO presentation, which included a slide showing sketches of all three EV models.

“The Model S is designed on a platform that we can extend onto an SUV, roadster, cabriolet and then we’re going to do a mass-market car as well.

“We’re going to have a cabriolet, a van and a crossover SUV with relatively little capital investment… (because each will employ) the same powertrain and chassis with changes only the top-hat of the vehicle.”

While no timetable was given for the production of the three new models in his appeal to public investors for the Silicon Valley-based car-maker, Mr Musk revealed first deliveries of the Model S would not take place (in the US) until 2012, making a 2013 arrival date likely for Tesla’s first sedan in Australia.

Tesla sold a total of 937 Roadsters between 2008 and 2009, but plans to produce 20,000 examples of the Model S annually from 2013 at Fremont, which has historical annual production capacity of more than 400,000 vehicles.

55 center imageTesla’s other IPO presenter, chief financial officer Deepak Ahuia, said Model S will be break-even in terms of profitability with 10,000 units. Tesla says its first full-year forecast represents just one per cent of the global premium vehicle segment, but can easily ramp up production to 50,000 vehicles per annum. Currently, Tesla produces less than 600 examples of the Roadster annually.

Only 20 per cent of the NUMMI facility, which Tesla purchased from Toyota earlier this year for $US42 million, will be used for Model S production, with the remainder to be used to manufacture its “third-generation mainstream” EV model.

Mr Musk said that while the Lotus Elise-based Tesla Roadster shares only seven per cent of its components with any other vehicle, the Model S will be based on an all-new flexible EV platform, which will spawn 85 per cent production-ready ‘Alpha build’ Model S vehicles this year and 99 per cent production-ready ‘Beta build’ vehicles in 2011.

While the Tesla Roadster, which was developed at a cost of $US125 million ($A143m), has a zero-emissions driving range of up to 250 miles (400km) and can accelerate to 60mph (97km/h) in 3.7 seconds, the Model S sedan will sprint to the same mark in a claimed 5.6 seconds and one of three specification grades will offer a driving range of 300 miles (483km).

“Version one of a product typically sucks,” said Mr Musk in reference to the Roadster. “(But) This (the Roadster) is good. This kicks the arse of any Ferrari except the Enzo. Sometimes people think it’s some kind of Lotus derivative. Actually it has only seven per cent of parts in common with any other car.

“The Tesla Model S is taking things to the next level. This is a big step up,” he said.

Mr Musk said the Model S – the exterior design of which is now frozen – will offer more cargo room than any other sedan, a five-star crash safety rating, a 17-inch 3DFX touch-screen, 4G wireless connectivity and a battery pack that will take 45 minutes to quick-charge and can be swapped completely in one minute.

“We want it to be the best looking car, we want it to have the best performance, the best safety, the best features.

“This is literally like having a MacBook Pro embedded in your console. You can personalise it, browse the web, check your email… third-party developers will develop apps for it.

“This is mind-blowing for the car industry but par for the course in Silicon Valley. There will not be anyone who brings technology faster to market than Tesla. We don’t have to go through seven committees to get something to market.

“Even though it’s a much bigger car and uses much more energy there will be a version of the Model S that can travel 300 miles. Even if this wasn’t electric this would be the car that you’d want to own.

“Long-term we’re expecting the whole (premium) market to be electric, but in the meantime this will be unique to us (in the) premium market. Even when the whole market goes electric, I still feel we’ll be at the top of the league tables in terms of competitiveness.

“Our goal is to build a car that has better quality than Lexus – not less, not on par but better. Every nuance of this car has to be perfect,” said Mr Musk.

Tesla’s IPO document revealed the company will this year commence production of lithium-ion battery packs for Smart. Also as part of Daimler’s investment in the company, Tesla is currently developing batteries for the A-class EV before production commences in 2011.

Model S and “powertrain 3.0” production starts in 2012, and Mr Musk said he expects Toyota to join Daimler in becoming an investor in Tesla, following a deal between the two companies to cooperate on the development of EV components, production system and engineering support.

“You’ve got the company that invented the internal combustion engine coming to Tesla, investing and saying ‘Tesla, we want you to make the battery pack’. It’s like Gutenberg coming and saying ‘hey, can you make a press for me’.

“The evidence is clear that their faith in us has grown by asking us to do more things. Daimler and Toyota are putting their money where they mouth is. Daimler is an investor and customer - Toyota is an investor and will become a customer,” said Mr Musk.

The Tesla Roadster costs $US110,000 ($A125,000) in the US, but at less than $60,000 the Model S is expected to cost less than half that.

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