Since its introduction in 2012, the Tesla Model S has had a lot going for it. On top of almost single-handedly legitimizing electric cars for the American public and redefining what a performance car can be, it also happens to be one of the best-looking sedans on the market. Penned by Franz von Holzhausen (who honed his skills at GM and Mazda before joining Tesla), it established a clear, instantly-recognizable design language for the Silicon Valley upstart — a herculean task for even the most experienced designers.
Tesla and Holzhausen followed up this year with the Model X, a seven-seat SUV that both resembles and shows a clear evolution from the sedan’s design. While success of the Model X remains to be seen (deliveries started in late September), it shows that the good genes first seen on the Model S look as good as they did four years ago.
But therein lies the rub: The Model S is already 4 years old. Gone are the days when Volkswagen could sell the Beetle for 65 years, the Volvo 240 could carry on for 20, and the Ford Crown Victoria could make it 15 model years. Cars are getting faster, safer, and more technologically advanced, and most automakers are sticking with a five-year production cycle lest they fall behind. So automatic updates or not, the Model S is going to start getting a little long in the tooth much sooner rather than later.
Don’t expect Elon Musk and company to let Holzhausen’s ideas go to pot just as the rest of the world starts coming out with their own Tesla-fighters, though. According to EV-focused site Electrek: “Since the reveal of the Model X in September, there’s been a persisting rumor that Tesla will give the Model S a ‘facelift’ in order for it to have the same front-end as the Model X” that will debut in the spring. The rumor is so far unsubstantiated, but as Electrek points out, there’s enough circumstantial evidence to give it credence.
Electrek reports that the rumors surfaced in September after a Tesla owner posted on the Tesla Motors Club that a service advisor told him a Model S refresh would be coming around the time of the Model 3 reveal, which would be in March. The car would likely receive a new front fascia, ditching the plastic black “grille” for a simpler, Model X-like look. And the similarities between S and X may go beyond skin deep too. As Green Car Reports points out: “It might also allow Tesla to commonize elements of the two cars’ understructures; CEO Elon Musk has admitted that the Model X had more unique components than originally planned by the time it reached production.” Common components mean lower production costs and faster production, both things that Tesla needs if it wants to hit its optimistic sales projections.
And as Tesla’s early adopters continue to use and update the company’s semi-autonomous Autopilot program, suppliers have indicated that by the time spring rolls around, the company should be ready with the software’s first update. With so much focus on the company for the Model 3’s debut (provided everything remains on schedule), we wouldn’t be surprised if the cosmetic and software update came at the same time.
The Model S is nearly four years older than Model X. And that’ll be two by the time the Model 3 rolls into showrooms (it’s expected sometime in late 2017), though it’s design will be nearly three. With a five-plus year gap between models, Tesla can’t keep selling the Model S as-is and hope to hit its sales goals, even if it is relying on strong Model 3 sales to carry the brunt of it. The Model S looked unlike anything else on the road in 2012, but it needs some finessing to remain competitive in 2016 and beyond. Even if this rumor is completely unfounded, maybe it’s time for Tesla to make it come true.
Like classics? It’s always Throwback Thursday somewhere.