Technology

Tesla unveils Model X car with Falcon Wing doors

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Media captionWatch: Dave Lee reports from the Tesla Model X launch

Electric car-maker Tesla has launched its long-awaited Model X, which has a "bio-weapon defence" system and double-hinged doors that open upwards.

It is the third vehicle produced by the firm, and was unveiled nearly two years later than originally planned.

The firm - which has yet to make a full year profit - said about 25,000 people had pre-ordered the car.

Analysts say the Model X should be a success because it will be seen as a status symbol.

Image copyright Tesla
Image caption The Model X has "falcon-wing" doors that open upwards

"I think we got a little carried away with the X," acknowledged Tesla's chief executive Elon Musk at the launch in Fremont, California.

"There is far more there than is really necessary to sell a car.

"And some of the things are so difficult, they make the car better but the difficulty of engineering those parts is so high."

One expert suggested the model filled a gap in the market.

"If Tesla's going to be a more significant player, they need more products and SUVs are what the market is demanding," said Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst at the car buying site AutoTrader.com.

Falcon wings

The sports utility vehicle (SUV) can fit seven people at a time.

Its "falcon-wing" doors open upwards and use sensors to help them clear obstacles, such as garage ceilings. The company suggests this will make it easier to put young children in car seats without hitting their heads on the roof.

The biohazard button activates the air filtration system, which fills the cabin with "medical-grade air".

Image copyright Tesla
Image caption The vehicle would be priced as high as $144,000, Tesla said

The Model X also features a panoramic windshield that extends overhead, which Mr Musk said was the largest single piece of glass ever used in a car.

Tesla says the vehicle, which has two electric motors, can travel about 250 miles (400 km) on a single charge and features automatic functions that bring it "ever closer to autonomous operation".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Tesla chief executive Elon Musk admitted the firm may have tried to do too much with the Model X

It will be continuously improved, Tesla says, via software transmitted "over the air".

An update expected within the next month should enable an auto-pilot function, allowing the cars to be driven hands-free on motorways.

The Model X is priced as high as $144,000 (£95,000, €128,000), and Tesla expects the pre-orders will take between eight months and a year to fulfil.

The company has not disclosed pricing for the base model, but Mr Musk said that in the future there would be a "lower-cost" version.


Image copyright AP

Analysis: Theo Leggett, Auto industry reporter

For Tesla, it's vital the Model X is a success. But the company may already have left an indelible mark on the motor industry.

The vehicle looks a bit Back to the Future, but there's little that's retro about it.

It comes equipped with a range of hi-tech gizmos, not least radar and sonar systems to enable what the company calls "advanced autopilot features".

It's a crossover SUV, which is what upmarket consumers seem to be looking for these days, particularly in the US.

Clearly, Tesla wants to boost its sales. And it needs to - it's still racking up losses. But the company has already proved its point.

It has shown that electric cars can be fast, have a decent range and look, well, quite sexy.

At the recent Frankfurt Motor Show, both Audi and Porsche unveiled striking electric sports car concepts. They're not in production yet, but they do show what the carmakers think the future holds.

It seems Tesla has worried them.


Increased costs

The Model X is the third vehicle to unveiled by the company. Its first was the Roadster sports car - which is no longer in production, and its second the Model S saloon.

The firm has pledged to make its next vehicle - the Model 3 - lower cost. It is due to be revealed in 2017.

The company hopes to disrupt the car market by demonstrating that vehicles with electric motors do not need to compromise on speed or handling.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Tesla said about 25,000 people had pre-ordered the Model X

But it has yet to make a profit and its costs are mounting.

Its spending on fixed assets totalled $831.2m (£548.7m) over the first half of the year due to its investment in the Model X and Model 3 as well as a new battery factory in Nevada.

The Model X, Mr Musk said, "gives us a cashflow stream we can use to develop and facilitate" production and development.

In August, Musk said Tesla would make between 50,000 and 55,000 Model S and Model X vehicles this year, and would have the capacity to roll 1,600 to 1,800 vehicles off its production lines per week next year.

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