DETROIT – The production version of theModel X CUV many expected to debut at the North American International Auto Show here failed to materialize, and an executive on hand was non-committal as to when the vehicle would be introduced.
“The Model X is being worked on feverishly,” says Jerome Guillen,vice president-worldwide sales and service. “The launch for the X should be happening in the future. It will be here at some point.”
The Model X is scheduled to begin production this year at Tesla’s Fremont, CA, assembly plant, with deliveries beginning in 2015. The CUV follows the Model S sedan, on sale now, which was preceded by the Tesla Roadster, the fledgling automaker’s first entry into the market.
Although the Model X has not yet hit the market, Tesla is on a roll with the Model S, its sole product.
Guillen says the 6,900 deliveries the automaker made in fourth-quarter 2013 exceeded prior guidance by some 20%. The executive does not provide sales estimates for this year, predicting only “relentless growth” in 2014.
The biggest obstacle to growth is finding qualified people for Tesla’s sales and service network, he says.
After several high-profile fires suspected to be caused by the low-riding Model S hitting road debris, Guillen reassures that the sedan is one of the safest cars on the road, noting no one has been seriously injured or killed in the car.
“Of course as we get more and more cars on the road this is unfortunately likely to change,” he says,” noting the NHTSA awarded the Tesla Model S a 5-star safety rating. “But for the time being, it’s one of the safest, if not the safest, car on the road.”
He also points to how well the electric cars have performed during the harsh winter, particularly in the Midwest, where temperatures dropped below freezing.
In addition to the absence of the production Model X at the Detroit show, the automaker has yet to announce details about a series of battery-swapping stations expected to be open by the end of last year.
Guillen says Tesla is on track to introduce some battery-swapping options, but declines to reveal details. Currently, the automaker is hard at work expanding its global supercharger network, which allows owners to rapidly charge their cars for free.
“We’re responding to huge demand for superchargers and that’s where our efforts are,” he says. “We wish we could tackle all challenges at once but we’re trying to respond to customer demand.”
Following the launch of the Model X, Tesla is expected to introduce its yet-to-be-named third-generation product, to be priced below its other models.
Few details about the third-generation product have been announced, including expected range. Guillen says its range “will be practical” and plans for the vehicle are on track.
“Three years from now we will launch the third-generation vehicle, which will cost half the price (of the Model S) and have greater volume,” he says. “That’s been the plan from the beginning, and we’re sticking to it.”