We learned this weekend that the first Tesla Model X in Europe has been spotted near Munich, Germany. As Tesla is still getting through the production of the Model X for early reservation holders in America, it is surprising to see the vehicle in Europe and actually raises a few questions.
The car was spotted near Ingolstadt, where Audi’s headquarters are located. It has an Ingolstadt license plate number, meaning it was registered in the city. Tesla doesn’t have a facility in Ingolstadt, with the nearest being a store and service center in Munich or a gallery in Nuremberg.
We couldn’t find any European Model X reservation holders with a confirmation of their vehicle being in production. We asked a Tesla spokesperson if the car could be a test vehicle owned by the automaker or if it started shipping the Model X to customers in Europe and we will update if Tesla gets back to us.
A likely explanation would be that Audi managed to get their hands on an early ‘Signature Series’, or even ‘Founders Series’, in the US through a third-party or by purchasing the car pre-owned since a few have been spotted for sales for a significant premium. They could have then imported the vehicle to Germany for benchmarking or reverse-engineering.
Update: when first publishing we embedded the instagram of the sighting below, but as you can see the user removed the video – the images featured below are screenshots from the video:
It is not uncommon for automakers to buy vehicles from competitors in order to learn from and/or benchmark them. After Tesla released its award-winning Model S, Ford admitted to buying the car. CEO Mark Fields said:
“We drove it. We took it apart. We put it back together and we drove it again.”
Ford has since announced a significant investment in electric vehicles and 13 new electric models (BEV, HEV or PHEV) coming to its lineup by 2020.
Audi could have a particular interest in the Model X due to its own upcoming all-electric luxury SUV, the e-tron quattro. Audi aims to bring the vehicle to market in 2018 with a “range of more than 500 kilometers (310 miles)” on a 95 kWh battery pack. Like the Model X, the quattro is expected to only be available in all-wheel-drive.
The German automaker recently announced it has been gearing up for volume production of electric vehicles in Brussels.
When Audi unveiled the quattro concept, it boasted that the vehicle was the “most aerodynamic SUV ever made”, but that didn’t last long. A few weeks later, Tesla unveiled the production version of the Model X, which achieved a 0.24 drag coefficient, outperforming the quattro’s 0.25.
Though Audi’s quattro is set to come out about 3 years after the Model X, it will be interesting to see how the two all-electric SUVs compare. After all, Tesla open-sourced all its patents last year, but a patent is hardly a step-by-step instruction manual. It’s helpful to have an actual functioning product.