Tesla Model X outsold all electric vehicles except Volt and Leaf in August
In early 2012, the world first caught a glimpse of the Tesla Model X. Promising to be an all-electric, all-wheel-drive falcon-winged crossover with an optional third row – bringing all the attributes of the smash hit Model S rolled into that SUV package that Americans are so fond of – Model X became an instant hype generator that has yet to be slowed.
Okay, multiple delays to the estimated start of production may have put the regen brakes on the hype machine just a bit. But with Model X now on track to begin deliveries in the second quarter of 2015 (after initially promising the end of 2013), if anything the crossover has just had more time to collect pre-orders from enthusiastic future owners.
20,000 and counting
Crowd-sourced numbers from the Tesla Motors Club, consolidated by commenter Paul Carter, tentatively indicate that Model X pre-orders have now reached 20,199 as of September 4, and the rate of monthly orders has accelerated. In August alone, an estimated 1,353 Model X reservations were placed.
If Model X was actually on sale, those numbers would have placed it third among all plug-ins in U.S. sales last month, behind only the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt. And yes, ahead of Tesla’s own Model S, which has been focused on satisfying demand in foreign markets during the summer months.
According to the (highly unofficial) tally, about 75% of those Model X pre-orders have come from within the United States. The trendline of the monthly curve projects over 1,550 reservations in September.
It should be noted that while the numbers aren’t exact, they do not reflect casual interest by any means – placing a reservation requires a $5,000 payment up front.
Will Model X maintain the strong initial demand after launch?
The big question is what demand will be like once Tesla clears the backlog of pre-orders. The bare facts would seem to indicate it will be quite strong, likely validating CEO Elon Musk’s expectation that demand for Model X will be “slightly higher” than Model S, which is on track to deliver 35,000 vehicles worldwide in 2014.
Model X will offer 60 and 85 kWh battery pack options, which should provide only slightly less range than Model S (208 and 265 miles for 60 and 85 kWh, respectively) due to the AWD, greater frontal area and higher ride height. It will offer better acceleration and driving dynamics than just about any crossover on the market thanks to two powerful induction motors and a low center of gravity unmatched by any gasoline competitor. It will come with free access for life to the quickly expanding Supercharger network. It will provide an optional third row of seating, with outstanding cargo space thanks to the powertrain packaging. It will come with one of the best warranties in the industry. And it will come with the incomparable “cool” factor of a Tesla, particularly one with falcon-wing rear doors.
Oh, and did we mention the American love affair with SUVs?
Of course, the wild success of Model X is far from a guarantee. Pricing has not been announced yet, but it will cost more than Model S, which starts around $70,000 before incentives. And though it will undoubtedly have few equals, only so many people every year can afford to buy a new $70,000+ vehicle. Then there is the potential downside of the falcon wing doors, which could hinder sales to outdoor enthusiasts – installing a practical roof rack appears extremely difficult without trapping rear occupants inside, although Tesla may have found a way around that problem.
In the end, expect Model X to eventually catch and handily surpass Model S. With the Fremont plant expected to be capable of reaching an annualized run rate of 100,000 cars by the end of the year, 2015 and 2016 could be big years for Tesla. In fact, Deutsche Bank analyst Rod Lache now estimates combined sales of Model S and Model X will reach 129,000 units in 2017.
Finally Musk, who has said Model X "will be a phenomenal car," has also attributed the delays of Model X to an admirable attempt to make the production car superior to the show version. If Tesla succeeds in that regard, they will surely have a hit on their hands.