Are Falcon Doors Holding Up The Tesla Model X?

3 years ago by Eric Loveday 60

Tesla Model X Is World's Only Falcon Door Vehicle

Tesla Model X Is World’s Only Falcon Door Vehicle

Tesla Model X Concept

Tesla Model X Concept

In it s quarterly conference call, Tesla Motors announced some Model X slippage:

“Extensive development work on Model X is underway and we expect to have production design prototypes ready in Q4.”

“Model X efforts are on track to ramp up production in the spring of 2015. We have just completed the final studio release of the vehicle. The tooling process has started with several suppliers …”

What was late 2014 is now Spring of 2015.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk discussed some aspects of the Model X that we think are responsible for the delayed launch.  As reported by USA Today:

“Tesla Motor’s next electric car, a gull-winged crossover, is delayed and its development is driving up research costs, but CEO Elon Musk says it’s only because his team is trying to make sure they get it right.”

“The Model X is requiring some “creative problem solving,” especially with its upward-opening rear doors, Musk told investors…”

“He says Tesla wants to make sure the doors provide real utility — and are not just viewed as a gimmick.”

Tesla Model X Next to Model S

Tesla Model X Next to Model S

Tesla CEO Musk stated:

“We’re really trying to make an amazing car and very importantly, to have a car…where the production version is better than the prototype.”

As for those unique falcon doors, Musk remarked:

“It’s quite a difficult sealing problem to really get it right.”

If it’s still difficult this late in the game, then perhaps Tesla should abandon those doors?

Though flashy, the general consensus seems to be that the Model X needs to lose those falcon doors in production trim.  Complaints over how to mount bike/ski racks or luggage carriers abound.  Then there’s the issue with opening them in confined spaces and concerns over the costs of motorizing the doors.

If the falcon doors are indeed the hold up, then most potential Model X buyers will be okay with Tesla switching to a conventional door design.

Personally, the falcon doors would cross the Model X off my dream-to-own list.  What’s your take on the falcon doors?  Must-have feature?  Overly complicated element purely there for design?  Ruins the versatility of the Model X?

Source: USA Today

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60 responses to "Are Falcon Doors Holding Up The Tesla Model X?"

  1. Nick says:

    “perfection is the enemy of the good”

    Elon wants his cars to be unique,and better than ‘normal’ cars, – but that might be getting in the way of his other intention, – to make EVs ubiquitous.

    1. Koz says:

      +100

      Elon has done a lot of great things but he can be obstinate. Happened with the Roadster and S. Led to the fallout with Eberhardt and delays and higher costs. In the end, it was certainly more to the benefit with the S but actually hurt with the Roadster.

      It is clear he decided the Falcon doors are a must have but are they really? A lot of people feel they are but a lot feel they aren’t. IMO, the X would be plenty compelling without them and had they never been shown I doubt there would be much if any less interest.

    2. vadik says:

      If you promise something – you have to deliver. Otherwise you lose your credibility, mojo, and investors.

    3. If Falcon doors have held up production of the Model X, what effect has the release of the RHD (Right-Hand-Drive) Model S had on Model X production? What about TeslaOS v6 operating software … with full internationalization and many other feature upgrades and improvements?

      The doors are a signature design that are clearly visible, but the real engineering is built in deep, were most people do not see. The real value in design comes not only from looking good, but a design working exceptionally well.

      note: The Fremont Factory needs to reconfigure to support duel production of the Model X and S.

  2. Big Solar says:

    I like them but if it is the main hold up I say drop them or offer them as an option once they are “perfected”.

    1. It is way too late in the design game to change to a completely different design door.

      You WILL get the gull wings.

      1. sven says:

        Wrong bird. Falcon, not gull. Big difference. Elon wouldn’t allow the lowly gull to be associated with any part on a Tesla EV.

        1. Spec9 says:

          I don’t think he’s offended by gulls.

          The reason for the switch to the moniker of ‘Falcon’ doors is to point out that they have a second hinged joint in the middle that allows the door to open without swinging out very far like a traditional gull wing door (which has just one hinge).

      2. Spec9 says:

        Yeah, unless they’ve been designing normal doors in parallel as a back-up plan, I don’t see how switching now to normal doors would speed up the process. In fact it would probably just slow things more since they would have re-do all the safety & crash tests.

    2. Jeff D says:

      I agree Big Solar. Having a choice of doors once the falcon wing doors are perfected would allow people get the benefits that they are desiring.

    3. Koz says:

      +100

    4. A this point, the design of the Model X is likely almost baked, ready to build the first Alpha verification prototype vehicles for testing.

      Current design and construction are likely focused on the Model X “production line”. It’s possible that more engineering and design go into creating the production line than a vehicle itself. Efficient production requires a big, complex well coordinated machine. 😉

  3. sven says:

    Falcon doors, the answer to the question no one asked.

    If the falcon doors are so great, why didn’t Tesla put them on both the front and rear doors?

    Why does Tesla insist on calling these doors falcon wings? Unless the Model X can fly they’re doors, not wings. 🙂

    1. scottf200 says:

      RE: “If the falcon doors are so great, why didn’t Tesla put them on both the front and rear doors?”
      It would appear you have not read anything about the Model X or watch various videos. Accessibility to the seat is a major reason. Parents will love this.

      1. sven says:

        Don’t believe everything you read.

        So the rear seat on a Model X would be inaccessible with a regular door?

        1. Koz says:

          It’s an animation Wile E. Not hard to grasp how it would help access to the back row, using child seats, and entry in tight spaces. The better question is whether these benefits are great enough for the cost, complexity, and perhaps decreased utility of roof storage.

          1. sven says:

            How would falcon doors help access to the back row when the door opening is the same width at the foot and knee level as a regular door due to the rear wheel well? Since the roof is over the rear seat, you would still have to crouch down to get into the rear seat. How often will people bonk their head on the roof edge as they crouch down to get into the rear seats?

            1. Khai L. says:

              sven, “How would falcon doors help access to the back row when the door opening is the same width at the foot and knee level as a regular door due to the rear wheel well?”

              … when you’re parked next to another car. Minivan owners all know this, which is why they don’t buy suv’s.

            2. Mint says:

              An equal sized conventional door would have to be shifted forward to offer equal access to the second row, because the hinge and door itself makes the front ~1/5th of the opening useless, and on top of that it blocks one side of entry.

              There’s a reason that sliding doors are so popular on minivans: Regular doors are inferior for access. But a sliding door wouldn’t fit on the Model X (physically or aesthetically), and the falcon wing is as good or better for access.

              The only downside is putting stuff on the roof. We’ll see how much that matters to Tesla’s target demographic.

              1. Spec9 says:

                The lack of roof access will bother some. But for all the rich moms driving their kids to school where I live in Range Rovers, Lexus SUVs, BMW SUVs, Mercedes SUVs, Escalades, etc. . . . they won’t mind.

    2. Mikael says:

      What would you call these things? Wings?

      http://nzbirdsonline.org.nz/sites/all/files/1200468kpo03.jpg

      Hint: It’s a Kakapo.

    3. pjwood says:

      +1. Garage obstructions can be a deal-breaker, here. The rails, the door, having a lift, or cars stored above.

  4. arone says:

    Falcon dorrs are coool..
    i think they are going to stay and elon will pull it off.
    when it been done ,tesla will remain as a unique brand and this uniqueness will propel the brand to new heights and gen-3 cars.

  5. scottf200 says:

    I’m a sig holder and am very happy that it has the falcon doors. I’ll like the practical access to the 2nd and 3rd rows. As well as the uniqueness. I’m happy to wait for them the various other features of the car to be done “right”. I’ll continue to drive mainly electric in my Volt until then.

    1. GeorgeS says:

      Good info scott. You have studied it and are on the list to get one then you know more than I do.

      I was going to suggest going to a plain door.

      1. scottf200 says:

        I bought a used Ford Expedition in an adjoining state so I could get options I wanted including captains chairs in the 2nd row for easier access to the 3rd row. There you have to step to the center. Here the 2nd row seat goes forward and you *step* into the 3rd row area. Nice!

  6. Alok says:

    Nice to hear that! Especially from someone who’s gonna buy the car…!

  7. David Murray says:

    Well, I just don’t like SUVs in general. So it is hard for me to say.

  8. Mark says:

    If it was a 5k option would everyone get them?

  9. Freshies says:

    The falcon doors are the main reason I’ve not put down a deposit for the Model X. Though the doors may look cool and work in SoCal, they are completely impractical and poorly designed for people who live in snow/ski country. Maybe the rumored Model S AWD will be formally announced soon…

  10. Mikael says:

    Falcon doors are not a must. But they add versatility and features that makes the car much more convenient on a daily basis.

    What I would like to see though are how the falcon wings perform when it’s been snowing.

    I always have a brush with me and that will work with the Model X too, but sometimes when lazy (don’t be, big heaps of snow can decrease the sight for the car behind you) I don’t do it. I wonder would like to see how the snow moves when opening the falcon wings.

    I hope some get to norway before the winter is over to see some snow and ice performance.

    1. sven says:

      What I would like to see is how the falcon doors perform in a heavy rain when the Model X is parked on an incline facing uphill. Gravity will pull the water on the roof towards the rear of the car. Will the rushing water spill over the roof edge like Niagara Falls into the second row?

      The effect would be similar to leaving a sunroof cracked open on a car parked on an incline facing downhill, then having a rainstorm pop up. The interior would get soaked.

      1. Spec9 says:

        Well really now . . . how often does that happen? Just get in quickly when in that situation.

        Or have the driver get in, drive to flat ground, then have the passenger get in.

        I’m more concerned with how it continues to function over long periods of time and in places with nasty snowy cold winters. But I’m sure it will be fine here in California.

        1. sven says:

          I guess you don’t live in hilly San Fransisco. 😀

          I was mistaken. I took a second look at the profile view of the Model X and it has a fairly steep downward slope forward of the falcon wing doors, instead of the flat roof I thought it had. So parking on an uphill incline won’t cause a water to cascade into the second row.

          In my defense, I’m very wary of water cascading into a car when it’s raining. I had the misfortune of owning a Jeep Wrangler with the removable plastic hardtop. The hardtop had a rain gutter over the door, but no outlet for the water in the rain gutter to drain out. Anytime it rained, when you got into the Jeep and sat down in the seat, your weight caused your side of the Jeep to settle, sending a cascade of water from the rain gutter onto your shoulder and leg. I finally figured out that drilling a hole at the end of the plastic rain gutter drained the water and solved the problem. I’m sure the Model X will be better engineered than the Jeep Wrangler. 🙂

  11. Brian F says:

    If you don’t want the doors buy a model S. The X should keep the doors and buyers should want to wait until Tesla feel they can do it right. Only the media and investor want to speed up the process.

  12. Brandon says:

    Buy a lame rover if you dont want falcon doors. Model X will be the best SUV ever, dont rush perfection

  13. FFY says:

    Hm, the top picture looks like it will not be possible to open the doors if parked close to another vehicle (even worse if that vehicle happens to be another SUV or a van)?

    1. scottf200 says:

      The top pictue is misleading if you can’t visualize that the front door mirrors on the S are in front of rear doors on the X. To see it in action use your mouse to drag the doors up and down here: http://www.teslamotors.com/modelx

      1. FFY says:

        I wasn’t looking at the mirror, but the roofline of the next car. Looks like the door would just barely clear it as it swings open, especially if it was a tall vehicle like an SUV. I guess it depends on how much the doors will be able to “fold” along the second hinge.

        Anyway, Musk said the final model will be a bit different from the concept anyway, so let’s just wait and see.

        1. scottf200 says:

          So you couldn’t be bothered with following the link and trying it?

    2. Spec9 says:

      Uh, I took that picture to show the opposite. They ARE able to open the doors when parked close to another vehicle whereas a normal opening door would not work in that situation.

      You’ll be able crack open a normal door but not enough to get in & out of.

    3. Mikael says:

      The regular front doors, no. But the falcon wings, yes.

  14. Spec9 says:

    I’m not so such they were a good idea. Granted, the 14 year old in me thinks they look cool. But they are kind impractical and hard to pull off.

    They also block the use of a roof rack which kinda sucks because it reduces the use of this as a good Lake Tahoe ski trip vehicle. Perhaps it was intentional since a roof rack would severely impact aerodynamics and thus reduce range. And a reduced range would reduce the practicality of this vehicle.

    Well, you can still probably pull off a rack on the back of the vehicle. Such as a trailer hitch based rack.

  15. jmac says:

    Falcon doors are a throwback to numerous other efforts by other conventional auto makers who have to date NOT succeeded in making them a mainstream feature of mass produced vehicles.

    When Tesla announced that the Model X would have falcon doors, my first reaction was
    “What?”

    That was quickly followed by “Those Fools”

    Seriously……..

    How many people do you know that are standing around the water cooler at work complaining about the fact that car makers just don’t have any Gull Winged door vehicles for sale any more.

    1. scottf200 says:

      Nor do/did they stand around talking about electric cars…

    2. Robster says:

      Nor did they in the 80’s saying they really missed a portable audio device that could be named walkman.

      With that attitude innovation is dead!

  16. GRA says:

    Those of us who have a CUV/SUV and believe that the ‘U’ is the most critical letter of the three think the Falcon doors are idiotic (yes, we know we can use a trailer hitch for bikes/skis/snowboards). The people who just don’t want to be seen driving a minivan will like them. Clearly, this latter group doesn’t foresee any need to transport kayaks or canoes, or else has to transport so many that they will pull a trailer.

  17. Johnny GT says:

    My biggest fear is parking garages…

  18. Red HHR says:

    How high is the car with the doors open?

    1. Robster says:

      That’s a very valid question! In NL we have low parking garages, wonder if that fits.

  19. Gadge says:

    The essence of a ‘crossover’ vehicle is practicality/utility! The winged doors will diminish or eliminate the use of the roof for most carry racks. In cold climates, what will happen when the top of the car is covered with snow and/or ice. Besides, calling them ‘falcon’ doors will have gulls exact their revenge you know how!

  20. CyberKnife says:

    Will my water bottles, coffee mugs, mail, phone fall all over the floor? Or do I have to put the away before opening this falcon doors?

    1. Phr3d says:

      good question since a kid-tainment area. guessing that Billy’s PSP falling on Sally’s head as it free-falls from the door pocket would be a lawsuit waiting to happen.

      I’ll let you know in Sep ’15, LOL.

  21. Loboc says:

    I have zero issue with unconventional doors. 99% of the time, I only use the driver’s door.

    I would love to see a two seat EV with gull doors.

  22. Paul says:

    While I appreciate Musk’s drive, ambition, and commitment to “getting it right” with the Model X and its unique gull wing doors, it would seem that he’s overlooking a fairly simply solution:

    Offer a “Model U” (for “utility”) that has plain, sliding doors like any regular minivan with the gull wing doors as either a pricy option or in the NEXT model, the model x?

    1. Rick Danger says:

      Sorry Paul, can’t do it; that would be Models S, U, X. 🙂

  23. Andrei says:

    Yes (must) to Falcon doors.

  24. Josephus says:

    People don’t know what they want until you show them it and make it attractive. How many “tablets” failed before Apple sold us on what a tablet could be?

    We’re haters of falcon wing doors because we haven’t tried them yet.

    That said, no roof rack does seem like a bummer.

  25. Taser54 says:

    I am curious to see what Tesla does to address 2nd and 3rd row egress in the case of a rollover. If the Model X is on it’s roof, how will passengers get out?

    The Falcon doors appear to create a number of design challenges. Here’s hoping that they are surmountable.