Tesla has flagged two new smaller and cheaper electric vehicles in a presentation to shareholders at the company’s Gigafactory in Texas.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed a silhouette image of a vehicle that appeared to be a hatchback or small SUV that would slot in below the popular Model Y. He said the company had two new products in the pipeline.
Analysts suggested the other vehicle may be a form of self-driving robotaxi. Musk told the meeting the maker was getting closer to full self-driving cars.
He predicted the two models, which will likely be built in a Gigafactory in Mexico, could attract as many as 5 million buyers a year.
Musk said one vehicle was already being built, but he was likely referring to prototype vehicles.
“I just want to emphasise that we are actually building a new product,” he said.
“We are actually designing a new product. We’re not sitting on our hands here.”
He said that “both the design of the products and the manufacturing techniques are head and shoulders above anything else that is present in the industry.”
One of the new models is expected to be the small hatchback Musk referred to at a 2020 shareholder meeting.
Musk said at the time that the car could be priced as low as $US25,000. That could translate into a price-tag of as little as $40,000 in Australia.
It is expected the vehicles could employ a 57kWh battery in lieu of the 75kWh battery in the Model 3 and Model Y.
Musk said Tesla’s Cybertruck, an electric pick-up truck that will compete with Ford’s electric F150 Lightning, would enter production before the end of the year.
Musk apologised for delays in the development of the pick-up, which was originally flagged in 2019.
Once production begins, Musk predicts the company should be able to deliver 250,000 units a year, “maybe more”.
“I guess we’ll see what the demand is like,” he said.
He hinted that price may be a barrier to achieving that estimate.
“We don’t just need to ramp up production but we also need to improve the production cost efficiency which is also going to be a very hard thing.
“We’ll make as many as people want and can afford but it’s going to be hard to make the cost affordable because it is a new car and a new manufacturing method,” he said.
Tesla also promised an audit of its cobalt suppliers to make sure they were being run ethically, without child labour.
Critics of EVs have pointed to the fact that they produce more CO2 in the production phase than petrol vehicles, but Musk said it took just two years for EV emissions to be lower than petrol cars.
He said they would produce 55 tons less CO2 over their lifetime.
They would also become cheaper to produce than petrol cars.
The news was not as good regarding the Tesla Roadster.
“We expect to complete the engineering and design of the next-gen Tesla Roadster this year and hopefully start production — this is not a commitment — hopefully start production next year,” said Musk.
He didn’t expect the Roadster to be a major contributor to the company’s volumes and profit.
“It will be a modest contributor to profitability, but it will be sick,” he said.
Tesla’s Australian chair, Robyn Denholm, told the meeting Tesla deliveries had grown by more than 40 per cent in 2022 and “that trend has continued in the first quarter of 2023”.
“On top of that we are getting ready to roll out our first cyber trucks,” she said.
She said the Model Y became the best selling vehicle of any kind in Europe and the best selling car (not including pick-up trucks) in the United States.