When the Model X launch event happened, a number of Model S owners reacted not with disapproval but with a lack of interest.
The Model X was clearly designed for a family with very young children. Once this target demographic was in place, various technical decisions slowly eroded the car as a great utility vehicle. In this post I am proposing that Tesla at some point should design a 3rd vehicle on the Model S chasis that is a true utility vehicle, not a disguised mini van.
The Model X sweet spot is for those with very young children. With babies, toddler or other young children, parents often struggle to strap in their kids with conventional car doors, sometimes will ride in the back seat with their baby, and other times will be hauling a large group of kids around town to a soccer match or other event. In the United States a lot of parents refuse to “be caught driving a mini-van” during the years when a mini van is likely the most useful vehicle for their family.
To address this market Elon and Tesla designed the X the falcon wing doors that allow an adult to easy stand up and reach into the back of the car. These falcon doors however have a serious impact on the X as a utility vehicle. With doors that raise up, you cannot put a standard roof rack on the car. The Model X cannot transport sporting equipment such as large surfboards, paddle boards and canoes without a trailer! For an outing with a large family or a large group of friends, excess equipment cannot be put on the roof such as skis, bikes or even just cargo boxes. Tesla’s solution is to offer a rear rack for the Model X, but my many items do not fit in within the width of the Model X and need to be carried on a roof rack. The X does allow you to have a roof rack on half the roof but a half roof rack has limited use.
They also invested a lot of time and resources creating some back seats that are independent and more comfortable for adults. The independent seats also allow easy access to the 3rd row seats when hauling around all the neighborhood children. But the second row seats cannot fold down and limit the use of the back area of a car. The utility in a SUV comes from having a large flat space in the back of the car to load large objects easily. A real utility comes when the seats fold flat and FLUSH with the rear area. Recently many cars have a flat area but with two levels often separated by 4” in height such as the Model S. With the Model X you can push the seats forward, but that also takes away length for longer objects.
The falcon doors also prohibit a conventional sunroof. Tesla’s alternative to a sunroof is a larger windshield with some unusual sun visors. Although this larger windshield will let in more light and perhaps more overhead views when driving in places such as Yosemite, it does not let in any air. I really like sunroofs. For me they are the sweet spot between a convertible that lets in too much air and a closed in car. A larger windshield offers nothing of interest for me.
Once the direction was set for addressing the needs of young families, the utility of the Model X was drastically decreased. Even with a high end SUV, owners want to use their cars for outdoor activities, hauling various items, putting sporting equipment on the roof, carrying their dogs and sleeping in their vehicle. The Model X is not the ideal vehicle for this buyer. But with all these compromises the Model X is sub par in comparison to the utility of current ICE SUVs including my 2007 Toyota Highlander Hybrid.
Directing the Model X to such a specific market, Tesla has lost in interest from the customers who really want Utility in an SUV. I am suggesting that there is room for a Model U along with the Model S and Model X on the original Model S chasis. The Model U could have conventional back doors, a sunroof and a bench seat in the back. Tesla could sell the Model U to many buyers who do not have young children but want more utility in their SUV.