As The “Original” EVs Head To Pasture, Tesla Says The Model S Will Soldier On

OCT 15 2015 BY JAY COLE 50

A Tesla Model S Refresh Doesn't Appear To Be On The Horizon

A Tesla Model S Refresh Isn’t On The Horizon

With the 2nd generation, 2016 Chevrolet Volt just now popping up at dealership across the United States, it shines a light on the 1st generation status of the other major plug-in offerings from ‘back in the day’ in America.

…which for EVs is like 4-ish years ago.

Here is a quick look at the plug-in sales from the nine EV models offered in 2012:

2012 Monthly Sales Chart For The Major Plug-In Automakers (click to enlarge) Tesla sold approximately 2,650 Model sedans in 2012 (as per Tesla financials – monthly estimates shown)

2012 Monthly Sales Chart For The Major Plug-In Automakers (click to enlarge) Tesla sold approximately 2,650 Model sedans in 2012 (as per Tesla financials – monthly estimates shown)

For one plug-in model (the Volt), the 2nd generation is here today.  For many, that 2nd generation upgrade is currently well into development.  For others, that day will never come.  But for one, who knows?

In the case of the Tesla Model S, it is now that one EV firmly in the “who knows?” category, and will assuredly be the last “original EV” left standing, as Khobi Brooklyn, a Tesla’s communications manager, relayed to Road & Track:

“We don’t have plans for retooling Model S at the moment.” 

The Tesla Model S Interior Is Probably The Feature Most Asked To Be Upgraded Today On The Performance Sedan

The Tesla Model S Interior (shown here in RHD)  Is Probably The Feature Most Asked To Be Upgraded Today On The Premium EV

As the Tesla Model S is just entering its 4th year of existence, the EV is just cresting its peak selling years now.

However,  also being at the ‘no plans’ stage of development behind the scenes, is to be miles away from debuting a 2nd generation offering, given the scope of what is required in both time and financial resources needed to re-launch a car.

In other words, while the Model S is unquestionably popular today – “familiarity breeds contempt“.  Tesla will indeed need a replacement at some point – and the R&D for that day needs to happen years ahead of time.

With that in mind, we can choose to look at this revelation in one of two ways:

1.) It is a testament to the Model S sedan’s design (simple and elegant), and its performance abilities (up to ~300 miles of range), that will allow it to live on and stay fresh much longer than its fellow plug-ins

2) The limited resources, and sole production facility of Tesla, is highlighted in the fact the company seems unable to be able to earnestly develop or redesign more than one EV concurrently (Roadster, Model S, Model X, Model III, Roadster 2.0, etc.)

With that being said, let’s check in on what is happening with the future of those nine original 2012 offerings:

The First Of The New 2016 Chevy Volts At Rydell Chevrolet In California This Week

The First Of The New 2016 Chevy Volts At Rydell Chevrolet In California This Week

Chevrolet Volt – the 2nd generation, 2016 model year car arrived this week, and people seem jazzed about it.  The new Chevy Volt gets 53 miles of all-electric range, and 42 MPG on regular petrol thereafter – and for less money than the outgoing 38 mile, 37 MPG/premium gas, 1st gen edition.

Next Generation LEAF Is Expected in ~18 months (We Think Strongly Based On The Lannia Concept)

Next Generation LEAF Is Expected in ~18 months (We Think Strongly Based On The Lannia Concept)

Nissan LEAF – the 2016 model year gets a 107 mile range option, but that certainly doesn’t fall into the 2nd gen/refreshed category.  The next generation Nissan LEAF is expected as a 2018 model year car in the second quarter of 2017 – Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has promised a 200-ish mile range (EPA) for the next LEAF.

2nd Generation Toyota Prius PHV Won't Make An Impact Until 2017 (2nd Gen Sketch - Which Is Most Likely Bang-On via Mobile.Autonet)

2nd Generation Toyota Prius PHV Won’t Make An Impact Until 2017 (2nd Gen Sketch Leaked via Mobile.Autonet)

Toyota Prius PHV – the 1st generation plug-in Prius (and its 11 miles of assisted electric range) went out of production in June of this year.

As for the 2nd generation Prius PHV, it has been confirmed and also promises more than 20 miles of range (and perhaps upwards of 30).  The only problem is that the Prius PHV is basically a conversion of the ‘regular’ Prius…and that generational upgrade took waaaay longer than expected.  The Prius PHV 2.0 is now not expected to arrive until the end of 2016.

2nd Gen Tesla Model S - "No Plans"

2nd Gen Tesla Model S – “No Plans”

Tesla Model S – the Tesla has seen numerous upgrades to the battery and drive systems (and most recently its Autopilot abilities) since it debuted in 2012, but with the latest confirmation that the company has “no plans” to retool the sedan, it will be a very long time before anyone drives a 2nd generation Model S.

In total, a generational upgrade takes the better part of 3 years to perform front to back (and that is if you are quick).   If Tesla indeed hasn’t even started planning, it will likely be at least 2020 (possibly after the 2nd generation of Roadster/Model R) before we see a new Model S on the roads.   Nine+ years is a very long time for any car (plug-in or not) to go without retooling – provided that will ultimately be developed to production at all.

Our Vision Of The 2nd Generation Ford C-Max Energi

Our Vision Of The 2nd Generation Ford C-Max Energi

Ford C-Max Energi – the petrol C-Max is headed for a 3rd generation overhaul in a couple years.  However, Ford gave US-production of the car its walking papers this summer, saying the line in Wayne, Michigan would end by 2018.  Ford has a separate/newer production line for Europe (and now China) running now, that is also capable of picking up any electrified slack for the US – but the increasingly competitive US plug-in segment (and the ‘not-so-great’ sales for the C-Max model overall in America), means the C-Max Energi will very likely not see a 2nd generation. 

We should note that Ford (once again) has plans to launch a serious hybrid to compete with the Prius (along with a plug-in version) for 2018, but we doubt the project internally dubbed the C240 will end up as a C-Max Energi or Hybrid – especially given the C-Max’s failure to follow through on that exact same promise the first go around.   The arrival of this new, uber C240 vehicle to destroy the Prius, would surely mean that the C-Max Hybrid and Energi has no place left to reside inside Ford’s lineup.

We Can't Show You What The Next Generation Ford Focus Plug-In Will Look Like - But It Will Be Made In Germany

We Can’t Show You What The Next Generation Ford Focus Plug-In Will Look Like – But It Will Be Made, And It Will Be Made In (at least) Germany

Ford Focus Electric – like the C-Max Energi, the Focus Electric is assembled at Ford’s Wayne, Michigan plant.   And like its plug-in brother, it has been given an eviction notice for 2018.

However, given that Ford will still badly need both an EV compliance-mobile and a low-end PHEV offering for the US and Europe…and the fact the company has a relatively new electrified Euro-plant in Germany – we expect to see either a Focus Energi roll off that line by 2018, or for Ford to choose the new Focus Electric platform to house its longer range BEV platform (LG Chem sourced batteries of course). 

Given Ford is also working on 5 new assembly plants in Mexico, we assume the North American-intent Focus models (in both petrol and whatever plug-in version they choose) will ultimately be built to the south of the US.

Had The Mitsubishi I-MiEV Done A Little Better, the CA-MiEV Probably Would Have Ended Up More Than A Concept

Had A 2nd Generation Of i-MiEV Been Green-Lighted For The US, You Can Bet The CA-MiEV Convept Shown In 2013 Would Have Been The Front Runner

Mitsubishi i-MiEV – the Japanese kei car has only been made available only every other year in the US (no 2013 model year, no 2015 model year), and the Mitsu is still technically available in the US as a 2016 model year – although you would be hard pressed to find one stocked at a dealership.

Mitsubishi has gone on record saying there will be no 2nd generation i-MiEV; and with the Outlander PHEV arriving in May, the current 2016 model year is expected to be the end of the line for the model.  Looking at it another way – we just don’t see Mitsubishi once again giving the i-MieV 2017 off, and then bringing back the same 64 mile EV into a landscape dominated with 150+ milers in 2018.

Honda Says It Will Return With Both A PHEV And A BEV In 2017 - But Not The Fit EV (EVSTER Concept shown)

Honda Says It Will Return With Both A PHEV And A BEV In 2017 – But Not The Fit EV (EVSTER Concept shown)

Toyota RAV4 EV/Honda Fit EV – when both these all-electric vehicles were announced, they were presented as answers to a CARB-mandate of BEV compliance for major automakers.  Toyota said they would make and sell ~2,600 RAV4 EVs in the US, while Honda stated 1,100 Fit EVs would be produced and leased in America.    Both goals were accomplished, with the Toyota RAV4 EV going out of production in September of 2014, and the Fit EV shortly thereafter.

Neither is being replaced, however Honda says it will debut a new production plug-in hybrid and all-electric car in 2017.

Categories: Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Tesla

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50 Comments on "As The “Original” EVs Head To Pasture, Tesla Says The Model S Will Soldier On"

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One difference with Tesla is that they seem to be regularly improving the car. Other automakers seem to want to wait for a whole new generation before making any significant changes.

Precisely! Tesla is constantly making improvements. The current Model S is a radically better vehicle (in terms of features and performance) than the original version. It just looks the same on the outside.

and it has always been a good looking car on the outside!

Agreed on all points!


Plus, the Mercedes S Class regularly takes 7-12 years between generations.

Classic styling plus making it right the first time prevents the need for constantly refreshing the design.

Since there are only ~90k Model in existence as opposed to 400k new Camry in the US every year there is less familiarity.

That said I expect a Model X front fascia on the Model S within 2 years.

To David Murray “making any significant changes” … really? significant?

Indeed. Model S has increased battery capacity faster than the Leaf and probably features as well. Late 2014 model S had a forward camera added and a ton of sensors for one of the most advanced auto pilot systems in the industry. They also had battery system improvements to increase supercharging speed from 90kw to 120kw with plans for 150kw.

The author is seriously complaining that the Model S body style has no planned “improvements”? I’d rather they keep the body style the same so they can more easily offer retrofit upgrades to existing S owners for various features, including new batteries. They’re the only auto maker in the industry that lets users improve their existing car instead of trashing it and buying a new one. Putting a “new face” on cars every 3 years is just a wasteful and pointless practice the entrenched auto industry uses to coax people to buy new things that have no functional improvements.

No VW’s??, or don’t they fit this timeframe

That EVSTER might be enough to bring me back to the Honda brand. I’m looking for a sporty long-range EV at this point. Give that thing 200 miles of range and a QC port, and I’m sold!

Japanese future concepts vs production cars i doubt the car will look anything like it. but 2 seats and 200 miles would be awesome.

Used Tesla Roadster?

Also on the list. It still needs to come down a bit in price, though. Plus it can only charge at 70A (14kW, since most public EVSEs hover around 200V).

I assuming anything with a Honda H on the front would be relatively inexpensive. My old S2000 had an MSRP in the mid $30ks.

I miss my S2000, but I am pretty sure it would carry a $45k – $50k price tag these days. But would probably include crazy features like Bluetooth, power seats and an unlock door button in the cabin.

Maybe even a distinguishable gas cover release lever. I don’t want to admit how long it took me to fill up the first trip to the pump.

The lack of these crazy features is part of what made the S2000 so appealing. It was a sports car, made for driving enjoyment. There were no frills, and no distractions. Personally I wish I could buy a car without bluetooth, navi, power locks, power steering, voice recognition, backup cameras, adaptive cruise control, etc, etc, etc. I just want an engaging sports car EV with a 200-mile range, quick charging, and NO gas tank. So yes, basically a Tesla Roadster. But alas I have to be able to afford it. Maybe in a few more years prices will come down enough…

I 100% agree with you on the simplicity being the real draw. It was my daily driver (and weekend autoX) and I loved it. Most people would have tolerated driving that every day.

I was just listing reasons why that price would just not be possible.

I looked it up on…the cheapest they have is a 2010 for $70k. For that kind of money, I could buy an entry-level Model S and have the quick charging (although I’d also be stuck with a monstrously large car). Either way, it’s a moot point because I don’t have the financial resources to afford a $70k car.

For me personally a Tesla S is still desireable, while any of the other EVs isn’t (well, maybe as a cheap second car).

I would gladly take any 2012 Model S (if I had the money), while improved range, speed and autopilot features make me want to have a newer one.

The design is very well (you could also say elegant, plain or common top tier standard) and the important tec specs get improved – so I would say it ages very well (= slow) compared to other cars.

Perhaps it would be possible to have a new 90 KWh battery replacing an old 85 KWh in a 2012 Model S.

The Model S is a good car, why drastically change it? As others have mentioned, Tesla has done numerous updates to the S through the years, making a complete refresh not as important. Tesla, keep working on the Model III…we want it.

“…it will be a very long time before anyone drives a 2nd generation Model S.”

Wow, I completely disagree. The Model S is on at least its second generation, with the dual-motor “D” models. Perhaps the upgrade from 85 to 90 kWh should count as a third generation, I dunno.

Tesla eschews the meaningless annual style changes that other auto makers use to promote planned obsolescence. But that’s far from the same thing as saying the Model S hasn’t had a major refresh!

Model S has a classic timeless exterior design.

It never gets old, always looks good and can be desired by anyone because its not outlandish.

Unlike any new Lexus…. those things are a mess.

Agree – I hate the front ends on the Lexus brand

Model S will seem to hang around longer that the rest of the Gen 1s, but I would be surprised to see a body style tweak next year to take in some of the Model X nose styling.

I agree that a full version 2 probably won’t come until after Model 3 (and GF) hits full volume.

“the EV is just cresting its peak selling years now.”

EVs are over???? Musta missed the memo…

A first generation Tesla Model S is still better then a second generation Nissan Leaf. This is due to range and supercharger access. To tell you the truth I don’t think a Tesla Model S can become outdated unless they invent flying cars.

The Model S you can buy now is ages away from the first one. Dual Motor with Insane Mode, now Ludicrous Mode, Autopilot, OTA software updates,… Maybe they end up restyling the front and adding some cupholders but I don’t think the Model S needs anything else. It’s much more important to get the Model 3 asap. 5 years from now, the Model S will still be desirable and by then, if you want something different, you’ll have the X, the 3 and hopefully the new Roadster (so you can spell SEXYER with Tesla cars, that would be awesomely misspelled)

I think the problem here is that Tesla don’t DO generational improvements. The constantly change the car within the body shell.
It’s not the same method as the rest of the manufacturers.
Everyone else does a “new” model because that’s their business model – keep selling new cars because we never improve the old one.

Other (non Tesla) car makers are using word generation too lightly. Tiny incremental improvements they make merely qualify for next year’s model. Their comparison to Tesla makes no sense.

I have lot of respect for all brands of EV’s out there.

But how many YEARS is the Model S Still ahead of the all the rest???

The upcoming 2 Gen replacements still pale to what that car is and will be.

Tesla has a great looking car with the Model S. I don’t think there will be a need to redesign or facelift it at all before real competition starts arriving.

Last I heard from UAW was that C-Max and Focus production are moving to the Hermosillo Sonora plant in Mexico, and Ranger production will begin at the Michigan Assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan for 2018.

Cue the all new 2018 Ford Ranger PHEV.

“R&D for that day needs to happen years ahead of time” eh no, the fruits of the R&D find their way to the current model and at some point a new body style will be introduced to give the steadily improving technology a nice new wrapper.

Beware of ICE age thinking Jay, EV development follows a different trajectory and is a lot easier and cheaper to do. No need to fit new models with a new line of powertrains developed to meet the newest emission mandates for instance.

Lets not forget what the Tesla/Musk master plan is, build compelling long-range EVs to force the existing OEMs to compete. Furthermore Tesla is expanding from high-priced to mid-priced EVs so the OEMs cannot continue to put out non-compelling, low-range EVs and hope to compete with Tesla in that segment.

If you have any doubts about this strategy all you have to do is look at how Tesla is taking bigger and bigger chunks of sales away from the established luxury/sport OEMs within the large sedan segment.

Even if Tesla never builds a Model 3, I think the threat of a Model 3 has already been responsible for improvements like the 25% range improvement in Leafs and the promise of 200-mile EVs in 2017-2018. Absent Tesla in the marketplace, I think EV manufacturers would still be convincing us we need no more than 80-miles of range.

Tesla is doing the right thing. They should do it like Porsche with the 911 or VW did with the original Beetle / Käfer. Small refinements carefully taken. Model S still looks great to me and this will not change in the future.

The Model S was already 2nd gen, before 2nd gen was cool.

The one possibility of design change with the Model S is to go no-grille like the Model X.

Otherwise, I think Tesla will update only after Model 3 when they add a more comprehensive sensor suite to allow more autonomy, which would also, hopefully, be when NHTSA and other countries’ safety agencies allow side cameras.