SAN FRANCISCO/DETROIT – American automaker Tesla has told suppliers it wants to start production of a new mass market electric vehicle (EV) codenamed “Redwood” in mid-2025, according to four people familiar with the matter, with two of them describing the model as a compact crossover.
Tesla chief executive Elon Musk confirmed on a post-earnings call on Jan 24 that the company expects to start production of its next-generation EV at its Texas factory in the second half of 2025.
That will be followed by Mexico and another factory outside North America to be decided later in 2024, he said, noting that ramping up production of the new vehicle would be challenging.
Mr Musk has long whetted fans’ and investors’ appetites for affordable EVs and self-driving robotaxis that are expected to be made on next-generation, cheaper electric car platforms.
Those models, including an entry-level US$25,000 (S$33,500) car, would allow it to compete with cheaper petrol-powered cars and a growing number of inexpensive EVs, such as those made by China’s BYD.
BYD overtook Tesla as the world’s top EV maker in the final quarter of 2023.
Tesla on Jan 24 said the next-generation vehicle would drive a new wave of growth.
“In 2024, our vehicle volume growth rate may be notably lower than the growth rate achieved in 2023, as our teams work on the launch of the next-generation vehicle at Gigafactory Texas,” Tesla said in a quarterly results report.
Mr Musk had first promised to build a US$25,000 car in 2020, a plan he later shelved and then revived. Tesla’s cheapest offering, the Model 3 sedan, currently has a starting price of US$38,990 in the United States.
Musk said in 2023 he was concerned about the impact of high interest rates on consumer demand for big-ticket items like cars.
Tesla sent “requests for quotes”, or invitation for bids for the “Redwood” model, to suppliers in 2023, and forecast a weekly production volume of 10,000 vehicles, two of the sources said.
Production would begin in June 2025, three of the sources said. All spoke on condition of anonymity because the matter is confidential.
Timing of next-generation compact vehicles was one of the most voted questions by investors to Tesla ahead of its quarterly results report on the afternoon of Jan 24, where it is expected to forecast a 21 per cent rise in 2024 deliveries, well below the long-term annual target of 50 per cent that Mr Musk set about three years ago.
Mr Musk said in May 2023 that Tesla was working on two new products, with the potential for combined sales of 5 million vehicles a year.
“Both the design of the products and manufacturing techniques are head and shoulders above anything else that is present in the industry,” he said at Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting.
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