Electric-car maker Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) is supposed to be launching its next big bet on fully electric vehicles, a sport utility vehicle called Model X, soon. But, barring comments from management during conferences and interviews, the company has done very little to market the SUV. Is it possible Tesla will delay the launch? Or is the company simply holding out for the opportune moment to share its new vehicle with the world?
The first deliveries of Model X to customers will begin by the "end of next month," CEO Elon Musk said during the company's second-quarter earnings call. He also said Tesla had produced "several Model Xs off the Tesla production line," and that it was producing them in greater numbers each week. More recently, Model X test mules have been seen on a daily basis around the company's headquarters in Silicon Valley, suggesting it is getting closer to launch.
When Tesla reported second-quarter results, it lowered its full-year guidance for total vehicle deliveries in 2015, from 55,000 to a range of 50,000 to 55,000, predicting the initial production of Model X will be more difficult than it was originally anticipating.
How many Model X is Tesla expecting to deliver this year? With Model X production unlikely to ramp up to meaningful volumes until the first quarter of 2016, it's likely that management expects about 1,000 to 6,000 Model X units to be shipped this year.
What's the next step?
If Tesla were following the same game plan it used when it launched Model S in 2012, it would have already launched its online ordering studio for Model X, where customers could view pricing, specifications, and options, as well as place orders. But with late September just about five weeks away, the company appears to be opting to use a different launch strategy this time. Or, of course, there's always the possibility that Tesla is simply running behind; but given that just weeks before the proposed timeline for launch the company hasn't notified shareholders of a delay, we'll assume the former.
What other strategy could Tesla be using for the Model X launch? Maybe it's converting reservations into pre-orders privately, hoping to show the final version of the SUV, along with options and prices, at a launch event where the first deliveries will occur. To do this, Tesla could ask customers taking orders to sign a non-disclosure agreement, wooing them with the chance to attend the Model X launch event.
Why would Tesla choose this approach for launching Model X? Using this strategy would reduce the number of customers canceling their Model S orders in favor of Model X and it would keep secrets about Model X out of the eyes of competitors as long as possible. Also, Tesla really has no reason to attempt to attract more orders for Model X. After all, production won't likely be meaningful until the first quarter of 2016, and the company already has over 20,000 cash-backed reservations for the SUV.
Of course, chances are Tesla won't take the opportunity for a public relations push when it launches Model X lightly. The car maker has more than cannibalization of Model S sales to worry about. Aiming to launch a lower-cost vehicle in much higher volumes by late 2017, Tesla could always benefit from more mass-market attention; fans today could be Model 3 customers in a few years. But maybe Tesla is just waiting for what it believes is the perfect moment to finally open the SUV's falcon wing doors and let the public in.