Two new Tesla vehicles could be in the pipeline, Elon Musk hinted this week.
During Wednesday's second-quarter 2020 earnings call, the CEO responded to a question from an institutional investor about Tesla's future roadmap. While the call largely focused on Tesla's near future and its earnings results, which saw the company report its fourth consecutive quarter of profit for the first time, the further-future-focused question revealed some interesting tidbits about what may come next.
The investor asked:
"As Tesla continues its journey towards the long term goal of selling 20 million units per year, what are the most important vehicle programs that will drive volume growth over the next three to five years beyond Model 3, Y, and the Cybertruck? Cheaper, smaller versions of 3 and Y or region-specific vehicles or anything else?"
In response, Musk said:
"I don't think we can comment on, you know, our detailed product roadmap beyond what's announced because I think we want to reserve that for product launches. But it would be reasonable to assume that we would make a compact vehicle of some kind, you know, and probably a higher capacity passenger vehicle of some kind, you know, these are likely things at some point. But I do think there's a long way to go with 3 and Y and Cybertruck and Semi."
The tidbit is revealing, especially when considering other pieces of news that have surfaced in recent months. The company has made strong progress on the vehicles outlined in the 2016 master plan, with the Model 3, Model Y and Cybertruck all aimed at expanding the company's appeal and reaching a broader market.
After the November 2019 Cybertruck reveal, Musk claimed the company wouldn't unveil any new products for a while. The company still has a packed launch schedule that could well lead into 2022 with the second-generation Roadster. Musk's latest comments suggest the company is considering what comes next as it works its way through this launch schedule.
Here's what we know so far:
High capacity passenger vehicle – Of the two vehicles, more is known about this one. Musk's 2016 master plan makes reference to "high passenger density urban transport," as part of a broader strategy to cover every ground-based form of transport. But in May 2017, Musk told investors that "I don't know if the bus thing really makes sense in a shared fully autonomous environment."
Recent reports suggest Tesla has found a way to merge the two visions together in a more convincing way. A June 2020 report revealed that The Boring Company, Musk's tunnel-digging venture, was exploring a 12-passenger electric van with room for luggage. This vehicle would be used to traverse the thin tunnels, designed for autonomous and electric vehicles. Musk seemingly confirmed the reports when he explained the following month that such a vehicle would offer seats for the passengers rather than standing room.
Compact vehicle – Musk's comments suggest Tesla will launch a new, smaller electric vehicle at some point. Less is known about this new vehicle, such as how it may fit into Tesla's product lineup or who it may target.
Musk has made suggestions about a new, entry-level vehicle, but it's hard to know if these references all point to the same vehicle or multiple products. In a 2018 interview, Musk claimed that Tesla could make a $25,000 car within three to four years. Musk noted last month that cheaper electric vehicles would need to offer at least 250 miles of range per charge, a point he reiterated during the earnings call.
Elsewhere, Musk has suggested that Tesla's new Shanghai facilities could develop an original vehicle. During the handover event for the first China-manufactured cars in January 2020, Musk explained:
“I think something that would be super cool would be to…so, we’re going to do it, we’re going to try to do it…is to create a China design and engineering center to actually design an original car in China for worldwide consumption. I think this would be very exciting. I think China has some of the best art in the world and I think it’s something that would be appreciated on a worldwide basis. I think it should be done, and we’re going to do it.”
Whether this compact vehicle has any links to these China plans remains to be seen, but one thing seems clear: the Model 3 is not the end of Tesla's goals to reach a mass market.