Reactions to Tesla 100D versions less than ecstatic: here's why

Generally, when Tesla Motors makes an announcement about a new product or a future plan, its fans and advocates cheer lustily.

The rest of the industry grunts, takes quiet notice, and carries on.

Yesterday’s announcement that Tesla’s two current models will be offered in new, longer-range 100D versions, met with more mixed responses.

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Even some usually supportive analysts and outlets questioned the importance, relevance, and focus of the new 100D versions—which had been teased and rumored as far back as February.

The general sentiment, in fact, might best be summed by some very old advice: “Stick to your knitting.”

In other words, a third round of even-faster-than-before performance versions with six-figure price tags does nothing to move along the car that will likely make or break Tesla Motors: its $35,000, 200-mile Model 3.

Tesla explicitly connected those dots in its announcement, noting that, “While the P100D Ludicrous is obviously an expensive vehicle, we want to emphasize that every sale helps pay for the smaller and much more affordable Tesla Model 3 that is in development.”

“Without customers willing to buy the expensive Model S and X,” the company continued, “we would be unable to fund the smaller, more affordable Model 3 development.”

“It’s fascinating to see the almost pleading tone of the price justification and the strategy to finance the Model X,” commented senior analyst Rebecca Lindland of Kelley Blue Book.

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“Everyone knows that’s what’s happening—but imploring owners to help is a new level of transparency. “

The new 100D models offer only an “incremental expansion on the high end,” in the words of Oppenheimer senior research analyst Colin Rusch on CNBC yesterday.

“For now, only folks who can afford a six-figure vehicle will be able to enjoy the luxury of faster speeds and longer range, but this is the sort of innovation that will improve the electric car’s reputation with skeptical shoppers,” said Edmunds executive director of industry analysis Jessica Caldwell.

Tesla Model 3 design prototype - reveal event - March 2016

Tesla Model 3 design prototype – reveal event – March 2016

Enlarge Photo

“Now the challenge is to make this sort of technology available at lower price points.”

Indeed, there’s little debate that expanding a battery pack to 100 kilowatt-hours in its existing form factor was a notable engineering achievement.

The cells are the same, Musk said on a call for journalists before the announcement went public, but cooling and internal support structures have been modified to permit higher performance.

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