Tesla Model Y: Elon Musk just had a huge rethink

Tesla has hit reset on the Model Y, with Elon Musk crediting the automaker's executive team for reeling him in "from the cliffs of insanity" over the car. The Model Y is expected to be Tesla's first compact SUV, or crossover, smaller than the current Model X. It's a sensible model to push, too, given the US market in particular is seeing significant growth in the crossover and SUV categories while sedans stagnate.

So, it made perfect sense for Tesla to push the Model Y out to its dealers as soon as possible. However an earlier decision by CEO Musk & Co. could have made that a lot trickier than it needed to be. The chief executive's original plan for the electric crossover was to base it on a completely new architecture compared to the automaker's existing cars.

That was to be Tesla's next-generation platform, and thew Model Y the first vehicle to use it, but now Musk has changed his mind. "Upon the counsel of my executive team to reel me back from the cliffs of insanity," Musk said on Tesla's financial results call yesterday evening, "the Model Y will, in fact, be using substantial carry-over from Model 3, in order to bring it to market faster."

It's a sensible decision, particularly given the growing pains Tesla has experienced as a fledgling automaker. By sharing a common architecture with the Model 3, many of the early developmental issues the Model Y could've faced should already have been addressed by the time production of the compact SUV begins. One of Musk's core messages about the Model 3 is that, though it's not a replacement for the older and more expensive Model S, it is a lot more simple, primarily in the name of cutting down on manufacturing complexity.

Indeed, as part of its Q2 2017 financial results announcement this week, Tesla revealed just how much more straightforward the Model 3 was compared to its bigger stablemates. "Early Model 3 builds will have fewer than 100 permutations due to standardized content and packaged options as compared to over 1,500 permutations for Model S," the company explained. "This significantly reduces manufacturing complexity and streamlines the purchasing process for our customers."

NOW READ: Tesla's Model 3 has a secret cabin-cam

Many of the changes, though, aren't visible to the driver. The Model 3 simplifies things like wiring, too, with under-the-skin improvements in efficiency that also help make the car cheaper for Tesla to produce. The next-generation Tesla platform would have improved that even further, Musk has said previously, including things like ditching the separate 12V battery.

Still, it's not to say the Model 3 and Model Y will be identical under their sheet metal. The carry-over will be considerable, but Tesla will help differentiate the crossover with unique features not available on the relatively affordable sedan. For instance, it's expected to get the Model X's distinctive falcon-wing doors. Production, Musk said previously, should kick off around the end of 2019 or the start of 2020.