Tesla Motors CEO, Elon Musk, announced an upgrade to the Model S as the company readies for their first EVs to be delivered in China next month. Musk posted on his blog that Tesla was adding an aluminum deflector plates and triple titanium underbody shielding to all Model S EV’s manufactured after March 6. Existing owners can also request the free retrofit as part of a normal service.
Musk’s announcement was made to address a few highly publicized fires with the Model S last year which prompted a federal probe into Tesla’s Model S. The National Highway Safety Administration has since closed their investigation and stated that they believe Tesla’s revisions should reduce the risk of fire caused by underbody strikes. The Administration recommends that current owners get their vehicles serviced as soon as they receive notification.
Musk wanted to make it known that the risk of encountering a fire in a Model S is approximately 1 in 8,000 vehicles. Those odds are five times lower than the average gasoline vehicle. Musk also added that the potential for the Model S to develop into a full-blown fire is comparatively small.
Tesla Motors made this announcement to the upgrade of the Model S just as they ready for their first cars to be delivered in China next month where they have already had an influence on the entire EV market. The company is one of the hottest in the world since going public and is now estimated to be worth $26 billion or half of General Motors’ estimated worth. Where the ratio fails to replicate is that General Motors produced 2.8 million vehicles last year to Tesla’s 20,000.
Tesla began taking orders from the Chinese late last year and the orders are already piling up. Ordering a Model S now will see your car delivered around year-end. The Model S is no bargain there either with a price tag of 734,000 yuan or $118,000 USD. The Model S is considered an import to China and any government subsidies for EVs cannot be claimed. These subsidies can be as much as 57,000 yuan per EV but price does not seem to deterring any future sales. Some customers could not wait and have already had their Model S delivered from the Tesla store in Hong Kong.
One of the biggest reasons Tesla is already having success in China is Eton Musk. In a culture largely driven by respect, Musk is revered as a business god and put on a pedestal next to names like Apple Inc’s Steve Jobs. The Chinese media have been closely fixated on Eton Musk and Tesla almost from the company’s early start which has helped fuel Chinese investment into the EV market. Listed domestic EV suppliers and makers have seen their shares pushed up more than 30 percent already this year. Some media reports are stating that Tesla is negotiating with State Grid Corp. of China to set up charging stations with the country’s largest power grid operator.
Tesla Motors upgrading the Model S comes at a perfect time to get the company ready for the market in China. The hype generated by the Chinese media seems to be helping Tesla make the Model S the new status symbol among China’s most successful businessmen.
Opinion by Brent Matsalla