After years of delays, pioneering electric car company, Tesla is finally ready to officially launch its first battery-powered SUV. However, it could find that it won't have the market to itself for very long as premium German automotive brands Audi and BMW are believed to be developing their own fully electric off-roaders in a bid to compete with the Model X, according to recent reports.
With its upward opening ‘falcon wing' rear doors, seating for seven and sharp lines, the Model X wowed the crowds when it was unveiled in concept form in 2012. So much so that within months of its unveiling, deposits started flowing in for the production version which was initially expected to come to market in 2013.
Unfortunately development issues, plus the challenge of making its existing Model S sedan a commercial as well as a critical success, meant that the launch date kept being pushed back.
However, during the company's annual shareholder meeting on Tuesday evening, Tesla's CEO, Elon Musk confirmed that the all-electric off roader would be with those initial deposit-paying customers before the end of the year. "We're expecting to begin our first deliveries in three or four months. I'm looking at the latest iteration of the Model X every week. The Model X may arguably be a better SUV than the Model S is a sedan," he said.
Musk also revealed that certain features, such as the car's signature ‘falcon wing' rear doors have made it onto the production model but have required particular attention to ensure they are "done just right."
Therefore, if there are no further holdups, the car will be hitting the streets as soon as September, which will be when Audi is expected to unveil its own take on the fully electric SUV.
Although the company stresses that the car will be in concept form, the Q6 will be debuting at the Frankfurt motor show and with it a new ‘sporty' design language specific to the car, which is being described as a sports activity vehicle rather than a crossover or SUV.
Audi's head of Research and Development, Ulrich Hackenberg, has said that the Q6 would have a range of up to 500km on a single charge; in other words, equal to that of the Tesla Model S executive sedan. It will also be built on the same platform that other companies in the VW group, including Porsche and Bentley, are already using to bring their latest crossovers and SUVs to market. This means that although Audi has given a tentative production model launch date of 2018, it could become a reality much sooner.
And speed may well be of the essence as according to a report last week in German publication Wirschaftswoche, BMW is also planning to build an electric SUV which too could be launched before the end of 2018, depending on board room approval.
The off-roader would become the third in BMW's ‘i' range of environmentally focused cars and would be built in the US at the same plant where its current range of SUVs are already produced.