Will the Tesla Model ☰ be built like this?

By | June 11, 2016

After lots of interesting developments since the Tesla Model ☰ preview V1 event, the thought occurred to me that Tesla is about to change the auto industry again.

When the Model ☰ was first shown to the public and the dust settled, it was obvious that Tesla (Elon?) had decided that they would be installing all the hardware needed for both Supercharging and Autopilot. This seemed normal at the time because that is how Model S is delivered.
However recent changes to how the Model S range is delivered, maybe enabled would be a better description, could represent a sea change for the delivery of cars in the future.

It started a year or so ago with Auto Pilot, but recent changes to the Model S range have seen the 75 kW version disappear and become a reincarnated original Model S60. The big difference is that they are harking back to the days of the 40kW version.
Just like the S40, which was installed with a software limited 60kW battery, the new “60” kW car has a software limited 75kW battery pack. In both cases the extra capacity could be unlocked using an over the air update.

So now we have a car that has all the hardware installed, but with lots of features that are enabled remotely when the upgrade fee has been paid.

The reason for this is to simplify the manufacturing process as much as possible, assuming that many folks will opt for the extras anyway, it allows a lower priced car to be sold without affecting the build process in any way. Fewer build permutations equals lower costs.
This may also go a long way to explaining why Supercharger access is optional, because they are not likely to be able to cover the extra cost of all the built in hardware at the same time as building in the infrastructure costs of the supercharging network.

So assuming this is the new model for cutting build costs, what could we expect to see delivered as a OTA enabled option.

  1. First is the already confirmed Supercharger access
  2. For the same reason, full Auto Pilot
    This is how the Model S is delivered today, even to the point of Tesla offering a 30 trial.
  3. From here it’s speculation, but the battery pack is the obvious choice. Having a single pack to build will make it much cheaper.
  4. How about the extra motor for the D option?
    It’s quite a lot of extra hardware, so it could be a close call to make all of that a cheaper build option, but this is Tesla we are talking about here.
  5. If the extra motor is on the table, why not the Performance option as well?
  6. Full Navigation – it makes sense for basic navigation to be in the car, but the full version could easily be an OTA optional extra.

There are bound to be more that will become apparent over time as they are added to Model S, but it does seem that Tesla are starting to get the number of build versions for Model ☰ down to the absolute minimum.

The implications of this change are far-reaching for so many people.

  1. Using OTA updates to deliver new features means that service centers are not needed for those changes.
  2. Selling a used Model ☰ becomes much easier. If some options where not purchased, the cost of adding them is a known, fixed amount. The new owner would just call Tesla or choose an on-screen option in the car to pay to get it installed.
    Becuase the extra cost is known, the selling price is easy to compare against other cars with those options installed.
    It also means that a low spec car is not hard to sell because lots of options can easily be added after purchase for a known cost.
  3. New owners can buy the car they need at the moment and add options later.
  4. This new sales model will make the traditional sales model look even more archaic. Where version differentiation is shown with wheel trim or paint color – all completed at the factory.

Take this to the extreme – if Tesla only make one or two versions of the Model ☰ with everything else as an OTA option, they could run at maximum speed and customize the car for the new owner right at the end of the production line, the only variable being paint color.
That might be a fanciful idea, but you can bet that Tesla are working towards this or as close as they can get.

What do you think? Add your thoughts in the comments below!