As Tesla sales reportedly spike, the new Model S and Model X haven’t pleased everyone

Chris Davies - Jan 31, 2021, 9:00am CST
As Tesla sales reportedly spike, the new Model S and Model X haven’t pleased everyone

Tesla’s significant refresh of the Model S and Model X – including new styling, more powerful options, and a divisive cabin redesign – is already proving a success in terms of sales, according to a new report, though the hunt for higher values per vehicle isn’t leaving everyone happy. Unveiled last week, as the electric car company announced its latest financial results, it was welcome update for two of the oldest cars in Tesla’s current line-up.

Both got exterior styling changes, and a reworked trim walk. Gone were the old Performance models, replaced by Tesla’s new Plaid trim; that gets three electric motors, two driving the rear wheels for true torque-vectoring, and a third for the front axle. A Plaid+ version, expected later in 2021, will add even more speed and boost potential range, Tesla claims, to over 520 miles.

Inside, though, was where things got sticky. For the most part, the cleaner, more minimalistic dashboard inspired by the Model 3 and Model Y was a clear improvement, but Tesla’s decision to use a “yoke” style steering wheel met with mixed opinions. The rectangular wheel – which has touch-sensitive controls for the car’s major features, though not a traditional PRNDL gear selector – hasn’t been given the green light from the NHTSA, either, with the safety regulator saying it would be reaching out to Tesla to find out what was going on.

Pricing, meanwhile, also increased. The refreshed Model S and Model X are now $10,000 more expensive, part of Tesla’s push to have the EVs reclaim their premium position now that the more affordable Model 3 and Model Y are around to offer a gateway to new owners. According to Electrek‘s sources, that’s been a successful strategy, too.

While we won’t know official order figures for a while yet, and Tesla plans to ramp up production on the sedan and SUV across the course of this quarter, insiders say there’s been a significant “spike” in sales. That “massive increase” in demand is reminiscent of the jump when Tesla announced the Model S P100D Ludicrous, at the time its most powerful EV, back in 2016.

Pricing for that car started at $134,000, though at the time Tesla still qualified for some EV tax incentives. The new Model S Plaid starts at $119,990, though is not eligible for incentives, while the upcoming Plaid+ version will start at $139,990.

Not everyone, however, has been so enthused about this past week’s changes. While Tesla had put Model S and Model X production on hold over the holidays, as it readied its Fremont, CA facility to start building the updated versions of the EVs, it didn’t pause sales. That meant customers – warned that they might have a slightly longer wait ahead – were still putting down orders for cars, with pricing from $69,420.

Those customers are apparently being told that Tesla won’t be offering the old-design cars they ordered; instead, “many customers” are said to have now been told they’ll need to pay the difference in order to get one of the new Model S or Model X versions. Worth noting is that the upgraded cars have more standard equipment than their predecessors, too. To slightly soften the blow, there’s apparently a $2,000 price adjustment for those who find themselves in that situation, and Tesla will be honoring the old price of the controversial Full Self Driving package (FSD) rather than charging the new $10,000 for it.

It’s unclear just how many people are in that situation currently. In Q4 2020, Tesla produced just over 16,000 Model S and Model X vehicles, and made almost 19,000 deliveries as it worked through older stock. Orders of the cars had actually surged somewhat in Q3 2020 and Q4 2020, with Tesla putting aggressive price promotions on the EVs.


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