FILE PHOTO: Visitors wearing face masks check a China-made Tesla Model Y sport utility vehicle (SUV) at the electric vehicle maker’s showroom in Beijing, China January 5, 2021. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang/File Photo
SHANGHAI/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) is readying a production revamp of its top-selling Model Y, according to three people with knowledge of the plan.
The changes to the Model Y – code-named Project Juniper – involve the exterior and interior of the electric vehicle (EV) with a target of starting production in 2024, according to two of the people, who asked not to be identified because the planning remains private.
A revamp of the Model Y would mean Tesla is on track to offer new versions of its top-selling models over the next two years, addressing pressure in markets like China and the United States for a visible reboot of its best-selling vehicles in the face of increasing options for EV buyers.
Tesla did not immediately comment when asked by Reuters about the plans for the Model Y, a crossover EV which was its best seller in California, China and Europe last year.
At Tesla’s investor day, CEO Elon Musk and other executives declined to discuss specifics of new models.
Tesla has already been working to retool its Shanghai assembly plant to prepare for a revamped version of its Model 3 sedan in a project codenamed Highland, Reuters has reported.
A revamp of the Model Y, first delivered to customers in 2020, would mean production and supply changes for a car now in production across all of Tesla’s major hubs: the United States, China and Germany.
“With the Model Y being not only being Tesla’s top seller, but also the top-selling EV in the world, it’s important to keep it fresh,” AutoPacific president and chief analysts Ed Kim said, adding that he had been tracking Project Juniper.
“As the global EV sales leader, Model Y has a target on its back,” Kim said. “As with Project Highland, Project Juniper should deepen Tesla’s already massive production cost advantages over the competition.”
Musk and other executives detailed efforts to take costs out of EV manufacturing during Tesla’s investor day.
Tesla Chief Financial Officer Zach Kirkhorn said the factory layout for Model Y production varied across the three plants that make the car and that Tesla would work to standardize planning for future vehicles to reduce costs and complexity.
Musk declined to comment on the specifics of any future models but said Tesla could look to address the variants of Model Y it currently sells.
“But, broadly speaking, the most profound architectural changes will be in future vehicles,” Musk said, in response to an investor question.
Tesla has asked suppliers for quotes for exterior and interior components that will be used in the Project Juniper version of the Model Y, two of the people with knowledge of the plan said.
The projected start of production is October 2024, according to one of the people.
It was not immediately clear how sweeping the revamp would be or what specific changes or improvements Tesla was looking to deliver with the new Model Y.
HIGHLAND MODEL 3
The Highland version of the Model 3 is expected to go into production in Shanghai in September, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.
With Highland, Tesla is aiming to cut production costs and boost the appeal of an electric sedan that first went on sale in 2017, people involved in the project have said. There will also be changes to the exterior and powertrain performance with a focus on production efficiency, they said.
The leading EV maker has faced increasing competitive pressure in China, its second-largest market behind the United States, even after it cut prices.
Analysts have said that is in part because it has been seen as lagging competitors in introducing new models, improved navigation or luxe interior touches that car shoppers in the world’s largest EV market are seeking.
In contrast to legacy automakers, which have tended to make incremental model-year changes before introducing an all-new version, Tesla has pressed the pace of change in its EVs.
Tesla has made frequent changes to its EVs through software updates and sometimes through hardware changes to add features, improve performance or cut production costs, analysts have said.
In one example, Tesla announced on Wednesday it had made changes in the suspension system on the Model Y made in China since January to make the ride smoother, an update Tesla fans applauded on social media.
Tesla’s plant near Berlin hit a new production record equivalent to annual output of over 200,000 Model Ys earlier this week, the company said. That was three weeks ahead of an internal production target reviewed by Reuters.