THE IMMINENT launch of the new Tesla Model X SUV has the tech company believing it is on the brink of a sales explosion in Australia.
Tesla predicts the Model X, which launches internationally in September, will more than double its sales reach Down Under when it arrives here in the second half of 2016.
The fully electric seven-seater will also hold the title of world’s fastest SUV, with 568kW/967Nm range-topping variants expected to hit 0-100km/h in just 3.3 seconds.
That’s no mean effort for an SUV tipped to weigh 2.5 tonnes.
The Model X is based heavily on the new dual-motor variant of Tesla’s Model S four-door sedan, which made its Australian debut in Melbourne this week.
Three new dual motor, all-wheel drive models have been added to the Australian fleet, as Tesla expands its local portfolio to five variants.
The dual-motor Model S 70D, 85D and P85D will add to the two single-motor, rear-drive cars currently on sale.
Wheels sampled the fastest and most expensive of the new Teslas, the $157,000 Model S P85D.
With the car’s ‘Insane mode’ activated, it’s an intoxicatingly fast way of hitting three figures.
The flagship sedan sends 375kW to the rear wheels and 192kW to the front, and accelerates from rest to 100km/h in 3.3 sec.
An even faster ‘Ludicrous mode’ (0-100km/h in 3.0sec) will become available for customers to download, and while these terms might sound strange, Tesla says they’re a key part of its Australian success.
“Three things attract people to electric cars: technology, being kind to the environment, and performance,” said Tesla Australia spokesperson Heath Walker.
“I didn’t think performance would have such a big impact in this market but it certainly has. Our most popular model is the fastest one.”
And in news that will give Nissan’s GT-R the cold sweats, Walker hinted that further software upgrades could be enough for a sub 3.0-sec sprint.
“We’re constantly doing minor tweaks to the car,” he said.
“At the moment, 3.0sec is the maximum based on the current battery pack. But we’re always looking for advances in the battery technology in terms of kilowatt hours which we can use to increase range and performance.”
But while Walker added that sales of the Model S have exceeded the company’s expectations in Australia (more than 80,000 Teslas have been sold worldwide to date), it has hardly been smooth sailing for Tesla globally in recent months.
Production of the Model X has suffered delays, and the company’s stocks recently took a hit after heavy investment in future product saw it post a US$184 million loss for the second quarter of 2015.
Rubbing further salt into the wound, news agency Reuters reported this week that Tesla loses more than US$4000 on every Model S it sells.
Both Walker and US-based Tesla spokesperson Alexis Georgeson declined to comment on the Reuters article for Wheels.
Tesla is yet to reveal Australian pricing or final specs for the Model X, but it has confirmed the SUV will arrive spoiling for a fight with the BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz M Class, both of which start in the mid-$80,000 bracket.
Expect the Model X range to top out at around $170,000 for the fastest, most performance-focused variants.
Sign up here to receive the latest round-up of Wheels news, reviews and video highlights straight to your inbox each week.