Tesla CEO Elon Musk said Wednesday that he recently approved the final prototype of the Model Y, signaling that the forthcoming all-electric crossover SUV is far enough along in development to go into production. Approval aside, though, he said full volume production still isn’t slated to happen until 2020, which has been the target for a while now.
“We’ve made significant progress on the Model Y,” Musk said in an uncharacteristically subdued call with investors and analysts, following news of the company’s first profitable quarter in two years. The CEO has previously teased a March 2019 reveal of the SUV.
Musk didn’t offer any more detail about the Model Y’s development, but one reason for the delay is that Tesla doesn’t have anywhere to build it yet. The company is already at the limits of its Fremont, California factory, to the point that it had to build a giant tent in the parking lot earlier this year to meet demand for the Model 3 sedan.
Tesla currently only occupies about 30 percent of its Gigafactory in Nevada, so there’s room there. But Tesla would need time and money to tool the facility for vehicle production and assembly. Right now, the company only makes batteries for all of its cars and energy products, as well as drivetrains for the Model 3, at that location.
Documents filed with the government in Shanghai this week showed that Tesla plans to make two different cars at the planned Gigafactory there. One will assuredly be the Model 3, which Musk said Wednesday he hopes to have in production by the end of 2019. The other could be the Model Y, but building a factory from scratch and putting two different cars into production might be a tall task.
Wherever the Model Y gets built, the vehicle represents a huge opportunity for Tesla. Tesla has found record-setting success with the Model 3 despite initial struggles with production. It’s become one of the best-selling cars in the country, and it just helped the company pull in its biggest quarterly revenue and profit ever. That’s all come at a time when sedan sales are absolutely tanking in the US, causing major automakers like Ford and Fiat Chrysler to go all-in on lineups that almost exclusively feature SUVs and trucks.
Repeating the Model 3’s success with a smaller, more affordable SUV — while also learning from the mistakes encountered along the way — could eventually be another boon to Tesla’s bottom line. It also isn’t the only product in the pipeline with that kind of opportunity attached to it. Musk said Wednesday the product he is “personally most excited about” is the forthcoming Tesla pickup truck, an idea he has mentioned in passing for years.
“I think that’s going to be some next level stuff there,” Musk said about the truck. More broadly, Musk added, “I think we’ve got the most exciting product roadmap of any company on Earth by far.”