Tesla May Have Created a Problem to Itself with the Texan Model Y and 4680 Cells

I have already given autoevolution readers some examples of why Tesla and Elon Musk misunderstood the dangerous effects mass production can have, such as reproducing a mistake thousands of times. What about doing different products with the same name for the same market? Tesla also ignored standardization, and that will cost it dearly.
Tesla Model Y with 4680 cells will cannibalize sales of Fremont-made Model Y 12 photos
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Check the tweet embedded below. Dan Burkland shared that his wife finally has a VIN associated with her Tesla Model Y Performance. However, he’s not happy that it is not a car made at Giga Austin, with 4680 cells and a structural battery pack. Burkland wonders if they shouldn’t wait. That thought is not new.

Although Burkland is just a random customer, his doubts are the same as several Tesla clients also have. Most of them want the latest that the company can offer, even if that is not yet sufficiently tested and proven robust. These customers behave like they were buying a smartphone: only the newest technology will suffice.

Some of them are refusing delivery of Tesla vehicles that do not come with the AMD Ryzen chip and a lithium-ion 12V battery. Check any Tesla group or forum, and you will see these discussions there. It was only natural that people willing to buy a Model Y would think in the same way about 4680 batteries.

When Elon Musk announced that Giga Austin would also manufacture the Model Y for some parts of the U.S. while Fremont would take care of other states, mainly on the West Coast, it seemed logical that the cars made in both factories would follow the same specifications. Even in these conditions, it would not surprise us if people preferred those made in Texas concerned with the low quality of Fremont’s products.

Thanks to Tesla’s decision to make its Texan Model Y with 4680 cells and a structural battery pack, customers will be able to tell where their new EVs are made. The first Model Y with this construction was slated to be delivered by Giga Grünheide. When he talked about that, Musk said it would be "a radical redesign of the core technology of building a car."

With Tesla changing plans for its German factory as supermodels change clothes in a fashion show, the original idea of doing that in Europe also had to change: Tesla learned it would not have subsidies for a battery plant in Grünheide. On top of that, 4680 cell development was more difficult than the company predicted. With the EV maker’s communication skills and controversial strategies, we’re not sure it was even completed.

Rumor has it that Tesla will sell the Model Y made in Texas with those cells. A while ago, the company celebrated producing one million units of these batteries, which would allow Tesla to produce a little more than 1,000 Model Ys. In other words, that’s far from enough for producing the electric crossover in regular numbers.

If Tesla really decides to deliver the first Model Y units made in Texas with the 4680 batteries, it will produce very different cars for the same market, even if they have the same names and appearance. That will make many of its customers cancel orders in an attempt to get the bigger cells. While wanting the latest tech may work with smartphones and tablets, it is a very bad idea with cars. Early adopters are the first ones to face issues.

If gadgets offer a reasonable risk – remember the Samsung Galaxy Note 7? – imagine cars. Vehicles are considered safety-critical machines. If anything goes wrong with them, people may die. That will not convince people wishing to be the first ones to drive the Tesla that represents "a radical redesign of the core technology of building a car." Wish them luck.

For Tesla shareholders, luck will not be enough. Selling a car in the same market with such deep differences will cause the more desirable one to eat up sales of the other. This process is called cannibalization, and it is widely known by the automotive industry. It seems Tesla decided to learn about it the hard way.

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About the author: Gustavo Henrique Ruffo
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Motoring writer since 1998, Gustavo wants to write relevant stories about cars and their shift to a sustainable future.
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