How likely is a Tesla Model S or X refresh?

The prospect of a revised design of the Model S and Model X is one of the more common Tesla rumors that has made its way through the community. Since their launch in 2012 and 2015, the two cars have seen very slight cosmetic changes. Although they contribute to the quarterly sales and distribution figures of Tesla, they are nostalgic vehicles, in essence. At least, during a Tesla Earnings call in 2019, that is what Tesla CEO Elon Musk said. “To be totally frank, we’re continuing to make them more for sentimental reasons than anything else. They’re really of minor importance to the future,” said Musk.

Which poses the question: why is Tesla now preparing to refresh the two vehicles, a year and a half after Musk named the “sentimental” S and X cars that were relatively minor to the future? While the Tesla community has undoubtedly persuaded itself that there is a newly built Model S and Model X on the way, there is a chance that it will not even happen.

It all began when Tesla shut down the production lines of Model S and Model X at the end of 2020. The catalyst for all the speculation was to accommodate the revamped cars, the company was upgrading production lines, and Tesla must settle on the best changes to make for the new models. It all makes sense why many individuals jumped immediately to, “they’re refreshing the cars.” The Model 3 just had an update of its own, after all, and it was mostly cosmetic.

The S and X have, however, been around for so many years, with the nosecone modification being the only major improvement. There have been several software updates and performance enhancements, but for the most part, with a few exceptions included, those apply to any Tesla vehicle.

Does it make sense to have two car production lines that make up just about 12-13 percent of Fremont’s total output? Can these lines be consolidated into one, with a 3/Y line transferred to the other line? With Model 3 and Model Y production, this would relieve some of the supply constraints that Tesla has. As demand increases, it could allow faster deliveries, and it could allow Tesla to be more effective in its S and X production going forward.

Musk has been a major supporter of increasing productivity of manufacturing and production. It makes a lot of sense that to upgrade one line to a 3/Y line, Tesla will consider shutting down S/X lines; the market for S/X is just not great enough to devote two lines. Development of 3/Y is far more important.

This is all speculation, and while Tesla will in some ways upgrade and update the S and X, I do not see how they will make drastic changes, especially because the company has already announced and shown the Model S Plaid, which is scheduled to begin shipments later this year. There would be a big cause for concern for those who have already ordered the Plaid S if Tesla were to refresh the S, since that would probably mean a new vehicle would be on its way that would look totally different from the current Plaid Model S.

It just seems that IF Tesla is going to refresh the S, as the Plaid Model S has inspired, they will widen the body style. The rear diffuser or spoiler would possibly not be in place. Maybe it’s just a broader body style.

Of course, the 4680 battery cells in cars are also likely to be introduced by Tesla, which would revamp the battery pack with more life, strength, and durability. That is if Tesla has the supply for it because the business is still very early on at Kato Road in its battery manufacturing efforts. In order to improve protection and rigidity, it is not unlikely that the S and X will be the first cars to use the Tesla structural battery pack.

There is always, of course, the chance that Tesla will try to revive the S/X with a full overhaul of its architecture and infrastructure. It could lead to a price that is less costly. Tesla could introduce closer price parity with 4 vehicles that are mass-market instead of 2, accelerating the EV market’s growth. How they do this possibly depends on the batteries, which make up so much of the cost of the car. The vehicles, however, would probably also need some form of aesthetic upgrade to appeal to consumers going forward. The 3 and Y seem to be recognized more generally, not just because of the price but also because of the look.

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