Tesla Model Y: Release Date for Elon Musk's Anticipated Electric SUV

The Tesla Model Y is set for unveiling soon, but the compact electric SUV is unlikely to hit the streets until much later. The vehicle forms part of CEO Elon Musk’s broader plan to get cars powered by sustainable energy into more consumers’ hands.

The electric vehicle is expected to be announced on March 14 at 8 p.m. Pacific time, at the Tesla Design Studio in Hawthorne, California. The company is set to livestream the event on its website, giving fans a first look at the car that could become the company’s best-selling vehicle.

Tesla will need to move carefully with the Model Y. The company is still fresh from ramping up production of the Model 3, its cheapest-ever electric car that hit the roads in July 2017. Although it suggested at the launch that it would hit a production rate of 5,000 cars per week five months later, it eventually hit this goal 12 months later. Tesla will want to avoid making the same mistakes, while reaching a broader set of consumers.

Tesla Model Y: When Is Its Release Date?

The company’s launch event timing gives some clues about when the vehicle may hit the road. Tesla first introduced the Model 3 in March 2016, taking $1,000 reservations soon after, before handing over the first 30 vehicles at a special event at the Fremont, California production plant 16 months later. Musk’s public comments suggest Tesla will follow a similar strategy again.

“We’re aiming to unveil the Model Y approximately March next year, and then go into production about two years from now,” Musk said at the Tesla June 2018 annual shareholder meeting. “Maybe a little less than two years, but basically first half of 2020 for production of Model Y.”

With Tesla already holding its unveiling event in March, this suggests the company is keeping pace with its planned roadmap for the Model Y. In the fourth quarter earnings call, Musk explained that this initial production is likely to consist of low volumes before shifting to wider production by the end of next year. This would place the release date near the first half of the year as expected, but it will likely take longer to get your hands on the car.

Tesla Model Y concept art.
Unofficial Tesla Model Y concept art by a Tesla enthusiast. 

The company will aim to avoid the Model 3 bottlenecks through a series of strategies. The first is through a design described by Musk as a “manufacturing revolution,” simplifying the process. The car also uses 75 percent of the same parts as the Model 3, reducing capital expenditure.

Tesla is also working to finish more factory capacity ahead of the launch. It broke ground on the Shanghai Gigafactory in January, which is expected to produce around 500,000 entry-level Model 3s and Ys within two to three years. This factory is expected to start production of the first Model 3s at the end of this year. Musk has called for more factories to bring cheaper vehicles closer to their intended consumers.

Although the Model Y is expected to cost more than the Model 3 — 10 percent more according to Musk, which would place the entry-level Model Y at shy of the $40,000 mark — the company expects higher demand for the new vehicle. Tesla is aiming to produce around one million Model Ys per year. Musk reasoned in the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call in January that “the mid-size SUV segment is worldwide the most popular vehicle,” meaning global demand could be 50 percent higher than the Model 3.

Tesla could be taking on its next major challenge with the Model Y launch.