Tesla Model Y: Elon Musk’s second electric SUV is here

By Matt McFarland, CNN Business

(CNN) — Elon Musk unveiled Tesla’s mid-size electric SUV, the Model Y, Thursday night in Hawthorne, Calif.

The most-affordable Model Y will have a base price of $39,000 and a 230-mile battery range, but customers will have to wait until at least 2021 to own one of the five-seater SUVs. Tesla will first sell more expensive versions of the Model Y — with prices starting from $47,000 to $60,000, and offering more battery range. Those will ship starting in 2020, according to the company. There are additional charges for Tesla’s autopilot software, a third row of seats and colors other than black. A panoramic glass roof comes standard.

An enthusiastic Musk said on stage he expected Tesla to sell more Model Ys than Model 3s and Model Xs combined. Production of the SUV is supposed to begin next year.

But many questions remain unanswered about the Model Y, including where it will be manufactured and how fast Tesla can scale production to meet demand. Tesla has said previously it will likely build the Model Y at its Gigafactory in Nevada.

It took nearly three years after Tesla’s unveiling of the Model 3 before it sold for its promised price point of $35,000. Tesla’s timeline calls for a faster turnaround for the Model Y. The automaker has previously struggled to hit deadlines, and had a difficult time scaling Model 3 production.

“2018 felt like aging five years in one,” Musk said. “Honestly it was really intense.”

Musk devoted only five minutes of his 34-minute presentation to the new SUV. He spent the rest of the time recounting Tesla’s rise and recent history. Musk also joked about building supercharger stations in Kazakhstan, and said he expected a Tesla would be driving on Mars in 10 years.

Musk revealed that the Model Y had 66 cubic feet of cargo space, comparable to a Jeep Grand Cherokee. He said the Y would have the functionality of an SUV, but will ride like a sports car. Following Musk’s presentation, some attendees were given test drives in the Model Y.

Tesla is unveiling the Model Y as it goes through a rocky period. The SEC has asked for Musk to be charged with contempt for tweeting “inaccurate and material” information about the company. Key executives have left the company. Consumers Reports stopped recommending the Model 3. Multiple government agencies are investigating the recent death of a Model 3 owner in Florida. The circumstances of the crash bear a similarity to the passing of Joshua Brown, who died while using Autopilot. Tesla has also been criticized for its use of the term “full self-driving.”

But Musk spoke optimistically of Tesla’s autonomous driving software on Thursday, which will be available on the Model Y.

“It will be able to do basically anything by the end of this year, just with software upgrades,” Musk said.

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