Tesla is about to take the wraps off something new, and community speculation is rife that it’s related to the upcoming Model Y sport utility vehicle.
Elon Musk, the company’s Twitter-savvy CEO, unexpectedly announced on social media Wednesday that “some Tesla news” will arrive on Thursday at 2 p.m. Pacific time. Although Musk’s posts were thin on details, his announcement in the early hours of the morning immediately sparked speculation about Tesla’s next electric vehicle.
Musk first outlined the SUV in the second master plan in 2016 as part of the company’s move to a broader market, alongside the Model 3 sedan that ultimately launched in July 2017 and a pickup truck with an as-yet-unknown launch date.
In a July 2018 interview, Musk said that “we’ve almost finished the design in the studio of Model Y, and we will probably debut the prototype, you know, roughly in March of next year.” Production itself is set to start in the first half of 2020.
Fans on Reddit were slightly more skeptical, as a user called “BLSmith2112” noted that Tesla tends to host major unveiling events in the evening, with enough time to inform visitors and make travel arrangements. The company unveiled the Semi truck on November 16, 2017, at 8 p.m. Pacific time at a dramatic event at the Tesla Design Studio in Hawthorne, California. The Tesla Model 3 sedan was also unveiled at the same studio on March 31, 2016, at 8:30 p.m.
The company’s customer referral program, canceled in January, offered fans the chance to attend such events if enough people used their code to buy a car, meaning a star-studded event at the last minute seems uncertain. However, Reddit user “shepticles” suggested the announcement could be the formal date and time for the main Model Y event.
Other suggestions listed by fans included:
- A demonstration of full self-driving. Musk initially promised in October 2016 that Tesla would complete a coast-to-coast autonomous drive in 2017.
- Updates for the “Hardware 3” chip, developed by Tesla in-house, designed to power the new self-driving system. Musk announced the chip in August 2018 as a replacement to the Nvidia Drive PX 2.
- An upgraded version of Tesla’s supercharger network. Musk promised in November 2018 the third version will start rolling out early next year. The current version uses 120 kilowatts to charge a car in around 30 minutes.
- Updates to the Model S and X. A July 2018 leak from Electrek showed a redesigned dashboard that looks closer to the Model 3.
- The introduction of the $35,000 Model 3, reaching its proposed cheapest price point.
- News on Tesla’s other upcoming vehicles: the Semi truck, the Pickup Truck, and the second-generation Roadster.
The Model Y is perhaps Tesla’s biggest project in the near future. Tesla has gradually started rolling out the Model 3 to markets beyond North America, with demand set to reach somewhere around 800,000 cars globally. But Musk suggested to investors earlier this month that the Model Y could outstrip this demand further.
“As I understand it, the midsized SUV segment worldwide is the most popular type of vehicle,” Musk told investors. “So we’ll probably see a higher volume of Model Y than Model 3.”
With the company building a third Gigafactory to meet demand in China alone, Tesla could face big challenges to ramp up production on the Model Y.