Tesla CEO Dances Awkwardly; Hints New Vehicle in the Works

Could This be the Next Tesla to Follow Cybertruck?

Could This Be the Next Tesla to Follow Cybertruck?

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, was in Shanghai China this week celebrating the successful start of vehicle deliveries of Made-in-China Model 3s. Amid incredibly awkward dance moves that only Elon himself could pull off, he also dropped a hint that has everyone talking: Tesla engineers in China will develop a new vehicle for the global market.

After the Cybertruck unveiling, Musk noted that the truck would be the last major product launch for some time. Instead, Tesla will be unveiling a number of new technologies in the coming years, a technology that, no doubt, will be used to update and enhance the current Tesla line of vehicles. This fact, therefore begs the question…what kind of vehicle will Tesla China be cooking up?

There are some clues as that might provide an answer. Elon has previously suggested that Tesla might develop a “compact” car that would be slightly smaller in size than the Model 3.

The move into the compact segment, however, would be an odd one. Some years ago (prior to the comments about making a compact vehicle), Musk had also said that Tesla would never manufacture a car below the $35,000 price tag. Musk reasoned that self-driving and the Tesla Network would allow Tesla owners to rent out their vehicles when they were not using them. In effect, the Tesla Network would subsidize their cars and make the price tag more affordable. I still have my doubts about Musk’s logic here. Nonetheless, the move toward compact vehicles would also be odd for another reason: smaller profit margins and a shrinking market. Compact car sales and sedan sales, in general, are not doing well globally and their profit margins are slim.

It would not seem to make any sense to enter the compact market segment unless you can find a way of making an ultra-profitable vehicle. Nevertheless, I think a compact car is in the cards. After all, Tesla’s mission is to help accelerate the transition to sustainable sources of energy and away from fossil fuels. Tesla cannot fulfil this mission unless they bring about cars that are would not qualify as “luxury” vehicles. The world needs a “peoples car” of electric vehicles.

I imagine a compact car, smaller than the Model 3 using Tesla’s dry electrode battery technology. Combine this with the new wire harness technology, an unpainted all stainless steel body like Cybertruck, and a smaller battery with a range of ~200 miles, and you have the makings of a car that could sell below $25,000.

A smaller size means less overall material, stainless steel construction would require no paint, no expensive robotic paint shop, no environmentally toxic coatings, little to no welding or casting machines, little to no human labour required to string the wire harness, and cheaper batteries made with dry electrode technology. Such a vehicle could be made in a factory with a fraction of the footprint, require a fraction of the capital expenditure, and a fraction of the human labour that is required to build compact cars right now. It would be simple, effective, and durable.

I had previously mused that Tesla’s Cybertruck was meant to gauge interest and acceptance in that odd angular design….to see if consumers would be willing to accept an unconventional look. The neat thing about this compact car would not only be its simplicity in the manufacture, but just durable a car like this could be. The Model 3 already has a drive-train designed to last 1 million miles, and Tesla is already working on seat/trim materials and batteries that can last just a long time. Imagine owning a car built of stainless steel that cannot rust, cannot scratch, won't dent, with a powertrain and battery that lasts over a million miles. That is cool. That is truly sustainable.

Tesla might best follow in the footsteps of other manufacturers and give this car a sub-brand with a different name. Tesla’s name is synonymous with luxury; the making of a utilitarian peoples car might taint the brand. But such a vehicle could truly fulfil Tesla’s mission of sustainable transport for everyone. A cheap utilitarian car that lasts practically forever made in small hyper-efficient factories. If Tesla wants to change the world, this is where Tesla needs to go.

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