Tesla Motors reveals Model X, brags it's #1 in electric vehicle development
Jan 15, 2013 (Detroit Free Press - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
California start-up Tesla Motors today showed off a concept crossover called the Model X at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, bragging that it's still leading the industry in electric vehicle development.
The new concept would add to the company's lineup of pure electric vehicles, which is centered around the Model S sedan.
The company also delivered a dose of the kind of blustery Silicon Valley rhetoric that has become its trademark in the auto industry.
An hour after General Motors revealed the Cadillac ELR luxury electric coupe, Tesla sales executive George Blankenship said the start-up's offerings were incomparable.
"I don't care what you say, there is no competition at this show for us," he told reporters.
The Model X comes as Tesla is entering a critical year in which CEO Elon Musk wants the company to deliver its first quarterly profit.
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The design prototype is a three-row vehicle with a "falcon-wing door" that offers "unparalleled" accessibility for passengers, Tesla chief designer Franz von Holzhausen said in Detroit.
The doors open skyward much like the 1980s DeLorean's gull-wing configuration.
Von Holzhausen said the Model X's "muscular, sinewy feel" and "athletic poise and character" are characteristics the company values.
"You'll see that in every Tesla going forward," he said.
Blankenship said the company would sell 20,000 Model S vehicles in 2013. The company produced about 3,000 in 2012, but declined to reveal specific numbers today.
The vehicles are built at a manufacturing facility in California that was formerly operated as a joint venture between Toyota and GM.
Tesla has compiled a series of industry awards in recent months, including Motor Trend's Car of the Year honor, which has added to the company's growing reputation for quality.
The Model S sedan is offered in several configurations of battery packs, with electric range of 150 miles to 300 miles. The company recently raised the vehicle's price, upping the base model to $59,900 before tax credits. The top model costs more than $100,000.
The company has drawn attention, and controversy, for its nontraditional retail strategy. Instead of typical dealerships, the company opens stores in locations like malls and doesn't try to sell cars to everyone who comes through the door.
Blankenship said the company opened 13 new stores in 2012 for a total of 33 worldwide, including 23 in North America.
He announced today that Tesla would open its first China store in Beijing in the spring. The company views China's thirst for luxury vehicles as a huge opportunity.
"What we're doing is not about a car, it's about getting people to drive electric," Blankenship said.
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