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Perspective: Tesla’s Model Y is exactly what we expected, and that’s okay

Last night we saw our first glimpse of the upcoming Tesla Model Y at Tesla’s Design Studio in Hawthorne California.

The reveal was similar to other Tesla events in the past.  Press, Tesla employees and faithful customers collected in the old Northrop hanger next to the Hawthorne airport to see a new vehicle.  The lights were dim and red, the food was present but perhaps a little underwhelming, and the event didn’t quite start on time.

Then CEO Elon Musk took the stage and started his speech.  Previously, when Tesla has faced challenges, Musk has seen it fit to remind the public in his presentations about the challenges Tesla has faced and overcome before, and last night was no different.  We were treated to a long speech about the history of Tesla and how it got to where it is today.  Then the Model Y rolled out, we went over a few specs, and the crowd broke to take test rides of the few prototypes Tesla had brought to the event.

Another *similarity* to other Tesla events is: Tesla stuck to what they planned to reveal.  It may seem strange that I’m calling this a “similarity,” considering Tesla’s last big reveal did include a Jobsian “one more thing” at the end, unveiling the next-generation Tesla Roadster.  But that event was the exception that proves the rule, because prior to that event, all of Tesla’s events have done exactly what it says on the tin.

At the Model S event, they unveiled the Model S.  At the Model X event, they unveiled the Model X.  At the D event, Tesla was being coy about what they were going to unveil, but expectations among Tesla fans were that it would unveil dual-motor cars and some sort of driver-assist capability, and that’s what they unveiled.  And at the Model 3 event, they unveiled the Model 3.

So it should have been expected that Tesla would show what they said they would show.  Nevertheless, the mood in the room was one of giddy excitement at being the first to see the “surprise.”  In the shuttle on the way over, a Tesla fan was asking our driver if we’d get to see the pickup truck (later, rumors swirled in the crowd that a photo was secretly shown after the presentation, and Musk was happy to stoke the fire on twitter).  At the event, people were wondering if the Roadster with SpaceX options package would somehow fly into the room.  In text messages, friends of mine suggested that Tesla maybe had found a new CEO.  HW3, Model S/X refresh, etc etc.  Speculation was rampant.

When Musk’s speech was over, the whole crowd stood still, instead of breaking to partake in the food and beverages and test drives Tesla was providing, everyone lingered in disbelief that they were presented with only one new product to salivate over.  The crowd stood still for long enough that Tesla design chief Franz Von Holzhausen had to come out, sans microphone, and remind everyone that it would be prudent to head outside for test rides before the line got too long.

And in the end – Tesla showed us what they said they would show us.  The new Tesla Model Y, which is 10% bigger, 10% less quick, 10% more expensive and has 10% less range than the best car ever made.

Then, despite us seeing and experiencing (on a very short drive up and down Jack Northrop Avenue) this iteration on the best car ever made, we returned home to find that the internet was apparently disappointed by the reveal.  Why no new news?  Why no “one more thing?”

There’s a saying in stock trading: “Buy the rumor, sell the news.”  When an announcement is upcoming, theories fly as to what it will be.  Everyone has their pet idea.  Ten different people will have ten different things they’re excited to hear about.  They all get excited and buy the stock thinking that they know the secret and when the world is made aware of it, everyone will be as excited as they are.

And then the announcement happens, and it turns out that one of those people was right and nine of them were wrong.  So those nine people sell, thinking it’s the end of the world that the company was stupid enough not to announce their pet idea, while the one person who guessed it right wonders why anyone else is disappointed.  And the market tumbles and everyone takes it as a sign that the announcement wasn’t any good because those other nine people didn’t get their fantasies fulfilled.

This is what we’ve just seen with Tesla.  Tesla took a great car, modified it for a different (very popular) market, and released exactly what they said they would.  It’s a Model 3 for people who prefer crossovers to sedans.  The Model Y is gonna cost a reasonable amount and have option packages that are a little more tempting to spend money on than you wish they were.  It fits 7 people (probably as long as two of them are kinda small), it’s got a more traditional hatch so you can fit slightly taller things in it or put your dog in the back(!), but it still feels like a Tesla to drive.

So, a little perspective here.  Tesla took an extraordinary, revolutionary product and iterated on it to make a product that’s just as good but appeals to a different buyer.  And that’s okay.

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Avatar for Jameson Dow Jameson Dow

Jameson has been driving electric vehicles since 2009, and has been writing about them and about clean energy for since 2016.

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