Tesla is building a new vehicle platform for its upcoming crossover vehicle. Instead of repurposing the underpinnings of the Model 3 or Model S, Tesla is building something completely new for the Model Y. This comes from Elon Musk speaking on the company’s investor call. Building a new platform takes time; Musk said the Model Y is expected to hit assembly lines in 2020, but could be as early as 2019. And yes, with the Model Y, Tesla’s model line will look like this: S, 3, X, Y.
Building a new platform is a long game for auto manufacturers. It allows for vehicles to share key components, thus improving margins and manufacturing costs when applied to more vehicles. Like most auto makers, Tesla already does this. The Tesla Model X SUV is built on the Model S platform. By building another platform, Tesla is preparing for its next generation of vehicles. Said another way, don’t expect a new Model S or Model X before the Model Y.
Musk said today during the earnings call that his company intends to ditch the 12-volt battery architecture used in Tesla’s vehicles. This is said to reduce the amount of wiring, reducing the manufacturing process and hopefully improving cost. Tesla and other EV makers are still reliant on many of the systems and components — heating, powered seats, infotainment — used in traditional automobiles and all of these systems run on a 12-volt system. If Musk is successful in moving away from this platform, he would have to move convince auto suppliers to move with him or build more of the systems in-house.