Base Tesla Model Y Axed Due to ‘Unacceptably Low’ Range, Price Jumps to $50K

That’s pretty steep for a hopeful volume-seller.

byJames Gilboy|
Electric Vehicles photo

As a smaller, more affordable electric crossover than the Tesla Model X, the Model Y was supposed to be Tesla's next big volume seller, and thus, its cash cow. But like the Model 3, Tesla's last ostensibly mass market-oriented product, the Model Y's base model has vanished into thin air, its $40,000 price tag incompatible with competitive range figures according to company CEO Elon Musk.

Musk confirmed the base Model Y's cancelation in a tweet Sunday, which was posted in response to a Tesla owner's inquiry regarding said model's removal from Tesla's online configurator. As of this lineup adjustment, the most affordable Model Y is the Long Range model, which offers 316 miles of range (EPA) and all-wheel-drive at a starting price of $49,990.

This places the Model Y's base price more than $6,000 north that of the entry-level Ford Mustang Mach-E, whose Select model starts at $43,895. At this trim level, the Ford offers only rear-wheel-drive and just 230 miles of range, though on the Premium trim, a 300-mile battery and AWD are available as a $5,000 option, pushing the vehicle's anticipated MSRP to $55,000. Though around $5,000 more than a roughly equivalent Model Y, the Ford is still fully eligible for the $7,500 federal tax credit, in addition to any regional-level credits available to consumers. This configuration of Mustang Mach-E also offers four no-cost paint options to Tesla's one, and no option colors exceeding $600, whereas Tesla customers face a minimum $1,000 premium for any color other than white. 

Both models also offer prep packages for advanced driver assist systems (ADAS), with Tesla asking $8,000 for "Full Self-Driving Capability" that it has on multiple occasions promised is near, yet failed to deliver. By contrast, Ford's "Co-Pilot360 Active 2.0 Prep Package" will enable the Mach-E to be driven hands-free on over 100,000 miles of American highways after an update coming Q3 2021, which will make the technology a less capable challenger to General Motors' Super Cruise technology. Though neither system approaches the vehicular autonomy advertised by Tesla, both are already functionally more advanced systems than Autopilot, which Tesla continues to advise be used only with the driver's hands on the wheel.

So, while Tesla's stock prices may be headed skyward again, it's increasingly clear that Tesla hasn't yet determined how to compete with legacy automakers on the field of cost. Economies of scale, after all, favor the biggest players, and in the proverbial automotive fishbowl, Tesla remains a relative minnow.

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