Elon Musk’s Tesla adds ‘Model Y’ SUV to line-up

Tesla introduced a new electric sports utility vehicle slightly bigger and more expensive than its Model 3, pitched as an electric car for the masses. (AFP)
Updated 15 March 2019
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Elon Musk’s Tesla adds ‘Model Y’ SUV to line-up

  • The all-electric Model Y has a starting price of $39,000 for a version with a 230-mile (370-kilometer) range
  • Musk said the Model Y has “the functionality of an SUV but it will ride like a sports car”

HAWTHORNE, United States: Tesla introduced a new electric sports utility vehicle slightly bigger and more expensive than its Model 3, pitched as an electric car for the masses.
Tesla chief executive Elon Musk showed off the “Model Y” late Thursday at the company’s design studio in the southern California city of Hawthorne, and the company began taking orders online.
The all-electric Model Y has a starting price of $39,000 for a version with a 230-mile (370-kilometer) range. A long-range version of the SUV capable of traveling 300 miles (483 kilometers) on a single charge was priced at $47,000.
Deliveries were expected to begin late next year for the higher-priced Model Y vehicles, with the standard-range version likely get to buyers by spring of 2021, according to Tesla.
Musk said the Model Y has “the functionality of an SUV but it will ride like a sports car” accelerating from stand-still to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds.
Model Y featured a “panoramic glass roof” and could seat seven people, according to Musk.
Entry-level SUVs are a hot segment of the vehicle market.
“Even though the Model Y will debut with promises of grandeur, if there are any chinks in Tesla’s brand armor, this vehicle will expose them,” said Edmunds executive director of industry analysis Jessica Caldwell.
“Tesla is about to learn exactly what it means to go head-to-head with the German automakers.”
While Tesla has a devoted fan base, with people at the Thursday event shouting enthusiastically for Musk, the Model Y will be competing with attractive SUVs that titans such as BMW, Mercedes and Audi are bringing to market, according to Caldwell.
The latest addition to the Tesla line-up comes shortly after the California-based company rolled out its lowest-priced Model 3, an electric car designed for the masses, at a base price of $35,000, with deliveries promised in one month.
At that price, the Model 3 is less than half the cost of most Tesla on the road and may be eligible for tax incentives which could further lower ownership costs.
“If Tesla truly wants to be a mainstream brand, it’s going to have to figure out how to sell cars to people besides young men in California,” Caldwell said.
Tesla has a sound foundation for the Model Y to be a “turning point,” since it has an enviably young base of buyers for a luxury brand and the Model X has had strong appeal to women, according to Caldwell.
The new vehicles suggest Tesla has been able to overcome production bottlenecks to ramp up production to meet demand, and moving toward Musk’s goal of making electric vehicles widely available.
Tesla this week reversed course on its decision to move most of its sales online, saying it will keep many of its showrooms open — but will need to hike prices to do so.
Tesla made the announcement on February 28 that it would begin selling its mass-market Model 3 at the promised $35,000 price, and close most of its retail locations to cut costs.
But the company said that after review, it had decided to keep some of its showrooms, although the specifics were not disclosed.
Tesla said the price hikes would start on March 18 for “the more expensive variants of Model 3, as well as Model S and X.”
“To be clear, all sales worldwide will still be done online, in that potential Tesla owners coming in to stores will simply be shown how to order a Tesla on their phone in a few minutes,” the statement added.


US scrutinizing certification of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft

China grounded all Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft on March 11, a day after the deadly crash of an Ethiopian Airways plane, which touched off a domino effect worldwide. (Reuters)
Updated 21 min 4 sec ago
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US scrutinizing certification of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft

  • The subpoena seeks documents and correspondence related to the plane
  • A criminal inquiry is ‘an entirely new twist,’ said Scott Hamilton, managing director of the Leeham Company

WASHINGTON: Boeing and US aviation regulators are coming under intense scrutiny over the certification of the 737 MAX aircraft after news that two recent crashes share similarities.
On March 11, just a day after the Ethiopia crash left 157 dead, a grand jury in Washington issued a subpoena to at least one person involved in the plane’s certification, according to a Wall Street Journal article citing people close to the matter.
The subpoena, which came from a prosecutor in the Justice Department’s criminal division, seeks documents and correspondence related to the plane, according to the report.
A criminal inquiry is “an entirely new twist,” said Scott Hamilton, managing director of the Leeham Company, who recalled a probe of a 1996 ValuJet crash as the only other aviation probe that was not a civil investigation.
“Unlike France, where criminal investigations into aviation accidents seems common, it is very, very rare in the US,” Hamilton added.
The Transportation Department’s inspector general also is probing the approval of the 737 MAX by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), The Wall Street Journal also reported. Neither department responded to requests for comment from AFP.
The probe is focusing on the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, implicated in the Lion Air crash, which authorities have said shared similarities with the latest accident.
The Ethiopian Airlines crash on March 10 came less than five months after a 737 MAX 8 operated by Lion Air crashed in Indonesia, killing 189.
While it may take months for definitive conclusions, Ethiopian officials said Sunday there were “clear similarities” between the two catastrophes based on information from the flight data recorder.
The two incidents have prompted air transport regulators to ground 737 MAX aircraft worldwide, a surprising setback for a line of jets that has been flying for less than two years and is Boeing’s top seller.
An investigation by The Seattle Times — in the city where Boeing has a large manufacturing presence — showed numerous problems with the MCAS, including that it would repeatedly override a pilot’s actions based on one faulty sensor. The paper asked for a response from Boeing and the FAA at least a week prior to the latest crash.
Shares of Boeing dropped another 1.8 percent on Monday to $372.28. The company has fallen about 12 percent since the Friday before the crash.
FAA officials had no comment Monday on the investigations but reaffirmed that the certification for the plane followed standard procedure.
Boeing said it followed the rules in bringing the plane to the market.
“The 737 MAX was certified in accordance with the identical FAA requirements and processes that have governed certification of all previous new airplanes and derivatives,” Boeing said.
“The FAA considered the final configuration and operating parameters of MCAS during MAX certification and concluded that it met all certification and regulatory requirements.”
Later Monday, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg sought to reassure clients and passengers of the firm’s commitment to safety in a video message.
“Safety is at the core of who we are at Boeing, and ensuring safe and reliable travel on our airplanes is an enduring value and our absolute commitment to everyone,” Muilenburg said.
“Soon we’ll release a software update and related pilot training for the 737 MAX that will address concerns discovered in the aftermath of the Lion Air Flight 610 accident.”
The 737 MAX was certified as a variant of the 737 Next Generation, the plane it replaced, despite major differences in the engine and the addition of the MCAS, according to documents available on the FAA’s website.
The motors on the new plane are heavier than in the 737 NG, posing more of a risk of stalling, so the MCAS was designed to protect against the possibility. But the Lion Air accident showed the system can erroneously correct for a stall when the plane is taking off, based on one bad sensor, and continuously fight the pilot for control.
US pilots complained to Boeing about the issues following the Lion Air crash.
Because of budget constraints, the FAA delegated aspects of the approval process to Boeing itself, according to sources.
Under a program, known as the Organization Designation Authorization (ODA), employees of Boeing are accredited by the FAA to assist in approving the aircraft — including design, production, flight tests, maintenance and other systems — as well as signing off on the training procedures of pilots on new planes.
The FAA last week said it already had ordered Boeing to develop a fix for problems with the MCAS system. But the agency was not able to describe any changes in the plane implemented by Boeing after the Lion Air accident.
According to one aviation expert who requested anonymity, Boeing had readied some modifications for the system by the end of 2018 but the regulatory approval and subsequent installation of the changes were delayed by the five-week US government shutdown.
Legislators Peter DeFazio, chairman of the House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Ted Cruz, who chairs a Senate transportation subcommittee, have each called for hearings to look into the 737 MAX’s certification.