If you happen to fancy the thought of buying a Tesla with a 85 kWh battery in a rear-wheel drive configuration, you might be shit out of luck. One of the California carmaker’s spokesmen recently told Autoblog that it has phased out both of these options in favor of the 90-kWh package. This leaves buyers with the options of buying either the 70 or 70D, the 90D, or the P90D, as well as the $10,000 Ludicrous upgrade for the P90D for those of us who feel that an electric sedan should get to 60 miles per hour in under three seconds.
According to the report, these amendments mean that, “while you can still get a bare bones, rear-drive Model S 70 for $70,000 (plus $1,200 in destination and documentation fees), the ticket for top battery bragging rights now starts at $88,000 for the 90D.” Over the years Tesla has retired several battery sizes, but this latest attempt at trimming the fat stems from a multitude of potential issues.
According to statements from a Tesla spokesman, “The recently introduced 90 kWh battery pack offers unprecedented range and value that has been well received by our customers. As a result, we will no longer be offering the 85 kWh battery.”
Ever since the 90 kWh battery was made available last summer, the 85 kWh model has been languishing on the chopping block, as have rear-wheel drive models due to a lag in sales. With dual motors (AWD) supplying a supposed 288 miles per charge, we can certainly see why, too. As for the Model X, which landed last September, it never featured the 85 kWh option in the first place, so this news has very little to do with that chassis, and more to do with… Wall Street?
After reading a blistering report by Forbes, this reformation of trim levels may be a further sign that the “former Wall Street-darling” is reconsidering what works. Tesla shares have already plummeted 30% since the new year; maybe Tesla is streamlining itself in order to be a more approachable, practical solution for alternative energy fans, or perhaps there’s a bigger plan at work here.
This sudden downturn is partially due to the fact that the Model X crossover was slated for delivery in the third quarter of 2015, but after production delays pushed it back, vehicles didn’t really begin reaching buyers until the later part of the year. Forbes claims that while it is commendable that Tesla is building each vehicle carefully in order to ensure the best possible quality, that doesn’t always appeal to fickle investors, as they typically want to see promised returns in a punctual manner.
For Wall Street, this is a legitimate concern, because as revolutionary as Tesla is, what it still has been unable to prove is its ability to crank-out cars on a consistently large scale. So when Elon Musk said that a goal of making half a million vehicles a year by 2020 had been put in place, a few eyebrows were raised, especially since last year the brand only was able to produce 50,580 vehicles, or about a tenth of that goal.
Maybe streamlining the options list isn’t such a bad idea after all, and offering consumers fewer trim packages but with an “all-in-one attitude” really is the way to go. Nevertheless, Forbes still feels that Musk is in a precarious position, claiming that the man needs to first “signal an aggressive forecast for 2016 that reassures investors the quality problems are history with Model X and that low oil prices won’t affect sales.” After that all he has to do is guarantee that “Tesla delivers results so that if he needs the capital markets in these volatile times the company has earned the trust of Wall Street.”
This all comes a month ahead of the reveal of the affordable Model 3, which Musk claims will be ready for consumers by late 2017. But some remain skeptical of this plan as well, as rumors that only teasers of the whole car would be shown-off have been circulating. Such whisperings give investors more cause for concern, as a prolonged delay in deliveries is reminiscent of what was witnessed with both releases of the Model S and the X.
Having said that, Forbes has omitted the fact that the entire market has been in free-fall recently, and that Tesla is a notoriously fickle stock — one that is more prone to violent reaction. Sure, Tesla is a bit of a whipping boy for Wall Street based upon prior release miscues, but who’s to say it can’t bounce back? Oil prices will surely surge once more, and if Musk can get Model X production numbers up, generate more interest in his cyclical home energy systems, and keep the Model 3 on track, we could see the biggest comeback since Bertha Benz first convinced her husband not to give up on this crazy contraption called a “motorwagen.”