Why Tesla Needs A New Model S

4 weeks ago by Steven Loveday 68

Tesla

Tesla Model S

Being that the Tesla Model S is the electric automaker’s flagship offering, it may be about time for a complete redesign.

We are hearing a lot lately that the Tesla Model 3 is not the company’s third-generation vehicle. It is, instead, a smaller, more affordable, dumbed-down version of the company’s flagship sedan. Musk has gone so far as to say that Tesla is anti-selling the Model 3, and touting the Model S. Musk said:

“We want to be super clear that Model 3 is not version 3 of our car. Model 3 is essentially a smaller, more affordable version of the Model S with fewer features.”

Is Tesla continually reminding consumers of this detail because it will make less money on each Model 3 sold? Or, because until the Model 3 is in heavy production, Tesla needs to keep Model S sales up? Or, is it really because having to change the sedan’s name to Model “3” has caused confusion? According to Musk:

Tesla Model S

Inside a Tesla Model S

“I thought we were being all clever by calling it the Model 3, but actually the joke’s on me, because it caused confusion in the marketplace.”

Once all of this Model 3 production deadline madness is behind, it may be high time for the Silicon Valley automaker to work toward a complete redesign of the Model S. The Model S underwent a decent facelift not long ago, and it caused quite a stir. Let’s face it, the car is getting pretty old. It was definitely time for a new look. The new front fascia seems to have been widely accepted.

Regardless of what each vehicle means to the company, the Model 3 is brand new and exciting, and the Model S has been around awhile. Among the barrage of other exciting news from Musk; the Model 3, rockets, Mars, boring, electric buses, electric pickup trucks, electric semi-trucks, the Model Y, hyperloop, Amber Heard … the Model S is likely at the bottom of the list.

The Model S came to market in 2012.¬†Since Tesla doesn’t deal in regular model years, and everything is achieved via over-the-air software updates, the vehicles continually transform. Second-generation Autopilot is now here, and (mostly) up to parity with the first-gen system. The P100D came along and made a name for itself as the fastest production car to date. But, the Model S is still the Model S.

As Tesla is a major competitor in the luxury auto market, and especially against the likes of German automakers BMW and Mercedes, it needs to be sure to keep up. Although Tesla is years ahead in some aspects, it could easily fall behind in others. Mercedes brought an all-new E-Class to market last year, and BMW is following suit with a new 5 Series. Audi has, at times, been accused of not keeping up with new models and tech, and has suffered from it.

Tesla is all about the next best thing. New, new, new. Reveals and unveils. Hopefully, the Palo Alto electric automaker doesn’t get so tied up in what’s to come, that it leaves behind its flagship. This will matter even more in a few years when competing luxury automakers come to market with brand new electrified rivals. Then, the old S may seem even more dated. It does sound like the proper time for a new Model S.

Source: Roadshow by CNET 

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69 responses to "Why Tesla Needs A New Model S"

  1. Longvsshort says:

    Smaller might be a good thing. Everytime I pass a Model S on the road I am struck by how huge it is (by European standards).

    1. Alonso Perez says:

      Which is why I think top end 3’s will be really popular in Europe, and almost certainly will eat into S sales. Not even to save money, but because the S is just large for European taste and street environments, parking spaces, etc.

      The smart thing for Tesla will be to have really good top end, and high-margin, Model 3 options in Europe at least, with full acceptance that it will cannibalize S sales.

      Either that or do a “compact S”, with a hatch out back rather than a lift-back. The car is still very wide though. On second thought a hatch Model 3 variant would be a hot seller overseas.

    2. Model S Matt says:

      I disagree. As an owner of a Model S it is not a large car. It is a midsize comparable to 5 series, Malibu, Sonata. You notice the difference rather quickly when you are over 6′ tall. I wish the Model S had slightly more leg room and the front door ingress clearence for you feet can be improved. I wish the car was closer to size of a 7 series. Beyond that we love the car.

      1. A Model S-T variant (Tall); and a Model S-L variant (Longer/Limo)?

        Tall version built specifically for people at 6 feet plus! 4″-6″ taller vehicle, for more headroom, and ths can generate more legroom, too!

      2. Sch says:

        And those are large cars by European standards. BTW model S us 4 inches wider and 3 inches longer than 5 series.

      3. Steven says:

        As a Sonata owner, I disagree with you. Although it “felt light” the S I drove was definitely a lager car than my ’07 Sonata.

      4. Alonso Perez says:

        It’s a low car, but it’s a car with a large footprint. These are different things.

    3. terminaltrip421 says:

      I was surprised by how small it is.

  2. Hauer says:

    Will not come before the Y.
    Has to use the new, almost cablefree architecture as well for fast/cheap production.

  3. Anthony says:

    I don’t disagree. Originally I thought a good time for a redesign would have been after the Model 3 was done, but Tesla is ramping up a bunch of other products instead (listed in the article above). If the Model S doesn’t get a facelift with the introduction of the newer, larger Gigafactory-producted batteries, it might be another few years.

    1. mx says:

      This is CNET, so look at it as a Short Money Opinion Purchase.
      This kind of argument just leads into the alt-facts right wing universe as it lowers the credibility of the media.

      The Volvo or BMW models don’t get redesigns every 3 years, and as the car is technically superior, and a redesign would bring nothing in tech improvements…

      But, if there was a redesign, sure an additional inch of rear seat headroom would be nice.

      1. Peter says:

        I just took delivery of a Model S, I live in Belgium and will admit that on the first day I wanted EVERYONE of the road so I could have it to myself… jokes aside the car is quite wide.. however I ordered mine with the new panorama roof, and that adds about 2 inches to the head room over the entire length of the car. Well worth the little extra is costs (I wouldnt use an open roof so didnt bother to order that)

  4. jelloslug says:

    The current Model S has about 2 to 3 years left on it’s life cycle. I would expect either a massive refresh or a completely new car around 2020 or so. In my mind I would lean toward a massive refresh with almost all exterior panels being changed, a complete overhaul of the interior and a change to the new battery cells. The only change I could see to the drivetrain would be a switch to four smaller motors in the AWD cars to allow torque vectoring and removing the differentials.

    1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      Four motors would require four inverters, four PEM (Power Electronics Modules)… a lot of added expense for only marginal improvements.

      So far as I can see, from my “test ride” in a Model S, the only thing it needs is more cupholders! Seriously, no cupholders in the rear as standard equipment? What were they thinking?!?

      If there is to be a redesign, it should be for practical purposes. I hope Tesla will face reality (not to mention basic geometry), and put a scanner on top of the car — either a rotating scanner or else multiple fixed scanners pointed in every direction — so they can move toward full autonomy. This thing with having only front-facing radars, and trying to rely on cameras to cover all other directions… not gonna fly for fully autonomous cars.

      1. Anon says:

        Amazing what only two eyes allows a human driver to do…

        A Tesla has eight ‘eyes’, plus temporal radar that can bounce under cars and track vehicles you can’t even see– even thru rain and dust.

        I don’t require a 3D scanner mounted on my head to drive, so I don’t expect a Tesla to need one, either. It’s already got a suite of superhuman sensors when compared to a human. The trick is to train the onboard AI to use them effectively.

  5. Volt says:

    Model S is design perfection. Really no need for a new design.

    Only thing it needs is new COLORS and maybe some new rims.

    But colors are the main thing.

    Multi Coat Red is the only true color Tesla offers. Every other paint contains 90% black and white is white and silver is silver.

    All bland, generic and stationary colors on the greyscale. More vibrant and bright colors are needed for the sexy design of the Model S body.

    I really only get excited when I see Red Tesla’s. All other Tesla’s are boring and bland.

    1. Longvsshort says:

      “Model S is design perfection”

      That’s the thing with design (or more broadly a shape for something with a certain purpose). It can only be so good.

      1. Longvsshort says:

        To clarify, it (design) hits a certain mark and is not like other metrics like range (the higher the better) or cost (the lower the better).

        1. Martin Winlow says:

          Oh, the *range* thing again. No, it doesn’t need more range. It just needs blinkered and unimaginative (not to mention lazy) people to wake up to the notion of doing something differently for once. On top of which, more range = more batteries = more up-front cost and lugging all that 98% completely unnecessary extra weight around does nothing for the vehicle’s efficiency and therefore energy consumption and therefore running costs.

          1. Longvsshort says:

            Yes. My point is, all things being equal (weight, size, charging speed and price of battery), then the longer range the better. This requires technological improvement of course.

    2. jelloslug says:

      Blue is not gray scale.

      1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        In my book, Tesla’s blue-gray paint color is just one more shade of gray. I think Tesla is really missing the boat by not offering electric blue!

        Googling a bit… I see GMP Performance offers a full body wrap in electric blue, for the original (nosecone version) Model S.

        Oddly enough, they call it “matte blue”. Does nobody in the auto industry know what the word “matte” actually means, in terms of finish?

        That body wrap gives the Model S a semi-gloss or “satin” finish. Nobody would want an actual dull “matte” finish on their car! Just look a a car covered with primer paint sometime; now that is a matte finish. Ugh!

        1. jelloslug says:

          You must be thinking of the old blue which was very dark. The new blue is lighter and much more vibrant.

    3. Tim Miser says:

      Not so sure the Model S is perfection. Tesla seems to be great at designing exteriors but when it comes to designing interiors it always falls short. The Bolt is so much smaller but has more legroom and headroom in both front and back than the S. The Model 3 interior is just ugly.

      1. Mint says:

        The Bolt designers didn’t care about exterior shape to achieve all the pros you mentioned, so the result is a below average exterior (to put it kindly).

        To sell a car in high numbers (especially in the $70-150k price range), it has to look very good. Even if GM had autopilot and superchargers and extreme acceleration in the Bolt, it still wouldn’t sell nearly as well as the S at those price points.

        Outside of a few percent of people, mist people wont care for more headroom and legroom than the S has. So I’d say the S is a damn good design.

  6. Peter Stringa says:

    A new bigger batterypack, just some more colors and a somewhat lower pricetag (around Euro 90.000 for a well equipped one) will be in the advantage of the model S. I don’t think it is that that huge, even for European standards. Next to all the positive things of the model S has, like Safety at all 5 points, I like the fact you can put a reasonably double bed in it and still sleep ok with the two of you when you are not taller than 1,80 mtr (about Six feet). One can drive around Europe as sophisticated hippies going from one concert to the other. You can’t do that in the more expensive model X.

    1. mfu says:

      In Europe we suffer from a 10% import tax. The US, in turn, only charge 2.5% import tax for european cars … Let’s hope for protection coming to an end.

  7. DL says:

    A redesign would kill the resale evaluation on used models and depreciation would likely fall to levels of other luxury cars.

    1. jelloslug says:

      The current refresh with autopilot has not killed the older, RWD model resale.

      1. DL says:

        I’m talking about an exterior redesign. Right now, an old Model S pretty much looks just like a new one (save the nose cone on the most recent models). If they change the look (like most manufacturers do almost every year) then resale will suffer.

        1. Tom says:

          Audi seems to be making their strategy work. No reason Tesla couldn’t too. Make a timeless design and stick with it. VW Golf another great example. Barely perceptible changes model to model over the last 15 years even when they completely overhaul it.

  8. Peter Stringa says:

    I disgree on the need of a new design. At least in Europe this design has made its entrance for the classic upper class. This classic (old money) elite class likes this design, in fact embraces/embraced it, and will keep on buying the model S as it is. At most points it surpassed the classic models of Jaguar. If Tesla changes the design the upper class will turn its back to Tesla. If I were Tesla, I wouldn’t change the design radically.

  9. Alonso Perez says:

    Musk estimated the lifetime of the S at seven years. That would put a new design out to 2019, and more likely 2020. I’m sure that some work has already been done on it.

  10. Peter Stringa says:

    Still if I can’t afford a model S in a year’s time, I will buy a Model 3 and design a sticker stating:
    “FORD, According to me my model is a model E. My Tesla model E.”
    And place that at my rear end’s car.

  11. Dan says:

    This is a ridiculous article. Why would Tesla completely redesign the car when sales are still increasing? It’s the most technologically advanced car on the planet. They just put new autopilot hardware in the car with the most powerful computer in any vehicle. Brand new 100 kWh battery pack. New fascia. What’s old? The only reason to change the design is to change the footprint or lines of the car. It would be ridiculous to take engineers off of designing new products, the model y, or the truck that will create new vehicle lines and more revenue. Putting money into a low volume $100k car instead of the model y or truck would be suicidal.

    1. andre says:

      totally in agreement! Such a classic shouldn,t be totally redesigned ,just fine tuned, slightly modified( as the actual one!)

    2. Doggydogworld says:

      Dan – Model S sales are NOT increasing. They peaked 18 months ago. The Model 3 is making this worse. There’s just not enough difference to justify the price gap.

      I don’t think a new body helps. Model S needs more feature differentiation.

      1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        Hmmnm, yes. If demand for the Model S hadn’t peaked, then Tesla wouldn’t have had any reason to introduce the lower-priced new S60.

        But I expect all the media attention and “buzz” about the Model 3 will get the attention of more car buyers, some of which will buy a Model S. It will likely be a year or two before we see if I’m right, though.

  12. Peter Stringa says:

    After thinking about a new design. Maybe even a bit wider and longer design would suit the model S.

    1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      The Model S is already wider than most cars. What advantage would there be to making it as wide as, say, a Hummer? Making it too wide to park in a standard parking space would be a serious disadvantage.

    2. Besides redesigned Model S or X, is their a space they could fill, by going even more upstream in Style, Luxurious Interior, High Range/Performance design, with a new name? Maybe a Model L (for Luxury)? Model V (for the Upscale Model X)?

      And keep the S & X, as upper mid class vehicles?

  13. Jim Bo says:

    The S is maybe not quite design perfection but it looks great IMO and definitely the best looking Tesla. The X and 3 are derivatives. That classic Jaguar/Aston look works great on a big sports car, not so good on the blimpy X or the 3, which is ungainly, an S with the nose and tail snubbed off and with too-small wheels. They certainly have accomplished keeping the S the style leader. Really should have shown more imagination in the X and 3 designs.

    1. MS4Ever says:

      Agree.

  14. Will says:

    Model S needs a first class interior – an interior redesign is most definitely needed – especially in an $80,000 + car.
    Tesla – hire an interior designer(s) from Audi.

    1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      Well, the interior has gotten mixed reviews, so yeah, you have a good case there. Revamp the interior, leave the exterior alone except for changes (added scanners) needed to move to full autonomous driving.

      The Model S certainly does need more cupholders — no joke!

  15. David Murray says:

    I have a sneaking suspicion demand for the Model-S will fall once the model III is widely available. Then… it will be time for a new Model S, or they may just replace it with an entirely different car under a different name.

  16. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

    I’ve never been a fan of changing style simply for the sake of change. The classic Volkswagen Beetle eschewed the meaningless year-to-year style changes which other auto makers use to as part of their planned obsolescence business strategies, and that certainly didn’t stop the Beetle from being a best-seller of its era.

    One reason why I admire Tesla is that it does not follow the herd of meaningless style changes. In fact, the lack of year-to-year changes is likely one of the reasons why Tesla cars have such a high resale value.

    That said, it may be that a new style would result in a temporary increase in sales. So I suppose there is a case to be made for the other side of the argument, even if I personally deplore such a triumph of style over substance.

    1. mfu says:

      … could not agree more. Model S sales have been down due to cannibalization by X and now by model 3.

      This is especially because there were/are no alternatives to Tesla on the market. Those, who would have bought an S because there was no smaller alternative, can go for the smaller alternative now.

  17. georgeS says:

    It’s the flagship of the Tesla line. I love the lines of the car. It’s a timeless body shape IMO. So if they change it then don’t change it too much.

    I’m old and I don’t like changes:)

  18. Josh Bryant says:

    It makes sense to move Model S further ahead of 3 after the pruduction ramp and before Y.

    But it doesn’t need a “full redesign”, maybe just the latest layer of their technology. Top of the list would be the HUD that got scrapped in 3.

    Others would be a rethink of interior for full autonomy, swivel front seats have been mentioned. A switch to the new cells, dropping down weight and putting 0-60, sub 2.0 and making a big improvement in slalom speed. Add falcon style doors (if they don’t give up in them after X).

    Plenty of options to distance S from 3. But it makes sense to do before Y. Then do the same to X right after Y.

    1. georgeS says:

      Josh,
      “Add falcon style doors ”

      Are you kidding I hope.

      I vote no….but my vote means nothing.

    2. MS4Ever says:

      They absolutely have to do the Y before any major redesign of the S. CUV’s are hugely popular and growing segments. The major automakers are planning on putting out their EV CUVs in the next few years. Tesla will also likely be able to make more of a profit on the Y, then the 3. They could do some interior/tech tweaks to the S, to keep demand up, but not getting to the Y quickly, would be an mistake. IMO.

  19. AddLightness says:

    It basically is an all new Model S now compared to when it went into production 5 years ago. It’s continually improving compared to most other vehicles that barely change in 5 years, and they’re able to do OTA updates. Also in my opinion it’s aged really well especially after the facelift. It’s an extremely fresh car and will continue to be.

    Obviously the interior has the biggest area of opportunity for improvement if they have a desire to match the competition in that area.

    I don’t think there will ever be a “new” Model S. They might do a resign of the platform for improved manufacturability, but that will be largely unnoticed by the owner. They will just continue to evolve it over time.

  20. Four Electrics says:

    Tesla needs to goose Model S sales somehow, as they are flat. A redesign might help, I suppose.

  21. JazzerJoe says:

    Leave the car alone and improve it along the way from the stand point of function; ICEV makers change the styling when the MY goes down in sales. It’s the old lipstick on a pig thing.

    1. WagonsRule says:

      That would be the Model Y, essentially.

  22. Jaymez619 says:

    I think the Model 3 is to Tesla as the iMac and iPod were to Apple. More people will get a “taste” of Tesla and the brand will get a huge boost in recognition. Future cutting-edge products and services will sell better.

  23. Bill Howland says:

    The realities of production prevent total redesigns of flagship vehicles as often as the author would like – and seeing as there is precious little (or, none, depending on how you look at it) competition to the “S” means this is the least of Musk’s worries.

    The Model “S” was a decent effort, and Tesla is smart to run with it. I personally think they should have left the more attractive ‘Catfish’ Grille as opposed to the current ‘Chicken Lips’ thing that makes it look more like a “3”, but admittedly that’s just a trifle.

    As far as drive train choices, apparently Tesla has finally at long last reduced the ‘parasitic 24 hour drain’ that some owners complained about, and besides, high-efficiency is not at the top of “S” buyers since only a minority complained about it. 120 volt charging is still less efficient than on other EV’s but not many are concerned about that since almost everyone charges at 220 anyways.

    Quality of the “S” has finally improved to the point where the car is acceptable – an accomplishment in itself. Not sure I’d want to screw with a good thing.

    I admit to being confused as to introduction of an 18-wheeler prior to a huge popularity pickup truck – neither vehicle will need gadgets such as ‘gull wing doors’, but the point is, there is enough on Tesla’s plate to avoid looking for more new designs to make.

    Its true the drive motor is not as efficient as it could be, but as I stated, Tesla buyers don’t really care – a nice looking midsize with creature comforts is what they want – and the battery is big enough so that few compromises must be made to drive it.

  24. FPD says:

    Don’t forget that the Model S was just one step in the Musk car building business plan, not the end destination. The high end Model S does have a problem, there are so radical few substance changes possible, that mostly aesthetics are being discussed. The big Musk goal would be expanding the EV revolution to the bigger market…which is a cost issue…and that seems to be at the top of the Telsa Motors priority list.

  25. Lps says:

    All promises,2019, 2020 …. Nobody, BMW, Mercedes or Audi has anything close to the Model S. They are coming, all are coming. The Model S is close to perfect. What matters what is under that (georgeus) skin in red! But easier access would be nice. I ganged my head when getting out of the driver seat.

    As for the Model 3, it should have been built as a hatchback from the beginning. Look at the previous comments. This car will be a killer in Europe and the rest of the world, maybe with the exception of China, because of its size. The hatch opening of the Model 3 is too small.

  26. Lps says:

    Sorry, I meant the trunk (booth?) opening is too small.

  27. Tech01x says:

    Reality is that the Model S has undergone quite a bit of redesign over the years. Probably moreso than most vehicles within a 5 year span, including ones with major redesigns. From structural changes, drive unit changes (dual drive), battery pack changes, interior materials changes, and an outside front nose change, and two generations of autopilot, a lot has been done.

    For the same money, a Model S has gone from rear wheel drive to all wheel drive, 81 kWh nominal to 98 kWh nominal battery pack with a range increase from 265 to 335 miles, added autopilot, charging rate at 45-60% SoC increased dramatically, slightly better aerodynamic nose, better materials inside, added significantly better air filtration, and added a slew of non–autopilot driver safety systems.

    Now, I do expect that they will have more leeway once a new generation of battery chemistry in a new form factor at a much lower cost is available. Increasing height for example for better headroom front and rear causes an increase in drag which hits efficiency and range. It is easier to do that with cheaper, more dense battery packs. Not to mention the costs of going through crash testing again. One of the big decisions is whether or not to convert from the fast back hatch opening to a Model 3-like removal of the rear crossbar. That would gain substantial rear headroom but come with a substantial loss in rear opening size.

    In any case, I expect ongoing changes to the S as they have always done.

  28. leafowner says:

    I would have to agree – A new style around 2020 is necessary.

  29. super390 says:

    The logical move from a financial standpoint is to stretch the Model 3 as the basis for the next S. Reason: it’s simplified, but improved. You can add in more luxury, especially in the interior. It is more space-efficient because the driver’s position was pushed forward. That can be retained. It is more aerodynamic, as you’d expect from a short-nosed design. It is optimized to exploit the glass roof that you’d expect upscale S buyers to be more interested in.

    By getting quality control on the 3 perfected, Tesla has a big stake in using as many as its parts as possible in other cars. But Musk has stated that the Y will be yet another new platform. If the Y is slightly wider than the 3, I’d expect that would instead be the basis for the 2nd-generation S. Maybe the 3 will evolve a line of 2-door coupes to go after the Mustang and 4-Series.

  30. Nix says:

    Tesla is starting to now grow in a way that they will no longer have to choose between just one project or another.

    The main driver for a Model S revamp would be direct competition from some other car maker. That still seems like a ways out. They will do it when they need to, regardless of what else they might be doing.

  31. przemo_li says:

    I think this post misses the point.

    S will still be best EV sedan. Best prestigious EV. Best prestigious car in luxury sedan that cost less then quarter of a million.

    However Model 3 will capture all those people who would rather not spend over 60k on a car, and that segment is significant portion of current Model S buyers. Yes, people spend more for the sake of making it a good choice.

    Model 3 will take those sales away. So Model S potential buyers profile will change. Those will now be almost exclusively previous owners of other luxury brands.

    So Tesla may in deed redesign the car…. but that will be a redesign of interior to up the luxury game.

    So if it will happen, it will happen for different reasons.

    PS Of course Tesla is spearheading a lot of engineering work for Model 3, Model S will be redesigned to take advantage of those. No dispute there.

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