Tesla Motors (TSLA) recently showed off the upcoming Model X at its store in Palo Alto, Calif. over the weekend. Given the enormous amount of goodwill, and intense interest in the Model S, the Model X could prove more revolutionary than originally thought.
Prior to the Model S and Tesla Roadster, there were electric cars, namely the General Motors EV1, Honda EV Plus hatchback, Nissan Altra EV, and Toyota RAV4 EV. However, due to lack of consumer interest, costs, and gas prices, those cars never took off. The Model S has proven that there is a market for electric cars, but the Model X is going into uncharted territories, not only because it's the second-generation car from a successful electric auto manufacturer, but the market for electric SUV's is still unknown.
Given the popularity of the Model S, it's reasonable to assume the Model X will be popular. Sources have said there are already more than 8,000 reservations for the Model X, despite the fact it will not be delivered to customers until late 2014, with the majority coming in 2015. In a research note earlier this year, Jefferies analyst Elaine Kwei highlighted how popular it could be. "Based on early customer indications, TSLA believes the Model X could be as popular as the Model S (the SUV derivative of a sedan typically sells approximately half the volume)," Kwei wrote in a research note earlier this year. "The current production line could be doubled to 80k-100k units."
The version of the Model X that Tesla showed off this past weekend had slight variances to the prototype from Feb. 2012, including the virtual side rear view windows (which are used as cameras) being replaced by ones that are exceptionally similar to the Model S. In addition to that, there are touch screens on the steering wheel, replacing the buttons from the Model S.
The Model X is getting the majority of Tesla's attention, as CEO Elon Musk noted on the second-quarter earnings call, saying he and the engineers are doing a lot to improve the initial design on what we've seen. "For the most part, our researchers are spending a lot of time personally on the Model X and trying to get the details right," Musk said on the call I think there are some things we can do to improve the Model X over the early demonstration prototype that people have seen. I think there is room to make it better." Based on what Tesla showed off over the weekend, it looks like there has been some tweaks to the original prototype, and more is still to come.
A feature that is sure to increase consumer awareness about it and separate it from traditional SUV's are the Falcon Wing doors. Instead of opening out like a traditional door, they open up. Combine that with the performance Tesla says the SUV will have (going 0 to 60 in less than 5 seconds using the optional All-Wheel Drive), and it's easy to see why this could be a huge winner for Tesla.
In a July research note, Deutsche Bank analyst Dan Galves said the Model X could add another 30,000 units to Tesla's production rate. Judging by the fact that there may be already as much as 8,000 reservations for a truck that's still over a year away from being delivered, 30,000 could prove conservative.
Much of this optimism is already baked in Tesla's share price, up more than 427% year to date. However, given the immense popularity surrounding the company, the truck, and Musk himself, it wouldn't be surprising to see Tesla's share price move higher as the Model X gets closer to introduction.
Given Tesla's remarkable ability thus far to somehow manage to surpass the hype surrounding itself, its products, and its earnings estimates, the Model X may be poised to reinvent the electric SUV market before there even is one.