Tesla Model SEnlarge Photo
With the delay of its Model X crossover until "late in 2014," it may look as if Tesla's product pipeline is running dry.
But we suspect the Silicon Valley startup electric-car company will offer a few new variants on its sole product, the Model S luxury sport sedan.
And an obvious next step for Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] would be to add the option of all-wheel drive to the Model S.
The company has already revealed that the Model X crossover--built on the same underpinnings as today's Model S sedan--will have the option of all-wheel drive.
Tesla has engineered the car's floorpan and suspension to allow a second electric motor to be added to the front axle, with power delivery between front and rear motors controlled electronically.
Moreover, all-wheel drive is becoming a must-have feature for large luxury vehicles.
In markets like the Northeast and affluent mountainous states like Colorado, a large majority of Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz sedans (as well as sport-utility vehicles) are sold with all-wheel drive.
Jaguar, in fact, retrofitted all-wheel drive into both its XJ large luxury sedan and its XF mid-size sport sedan, neither of which had been designed to accommodate the hardware, for the 2013 model year.
Meanwhile, Tesla's sole product offerings have fallen from three to two with the cancellation of the 40-kilowatt-hour version of the Model S--due, the company said, to lack of demand.
So if Tesla's customers can afford the pricier 60-kWh and 85-kWh versions of the Model S, perhaps there's more per-car profit to be made in adding all-wheel drive?
Remember, the company's engineers are designing all-wheel drive for the Model X anyway.
2014 Tesla Model X all-electric crossover with 'Falcon Doors' openEnlarge Photo
And there's more than enough space under the Model S hood to fit in a second motor. Right now, that space serves as the front trunk--which Tesla insists on calling a "frunk."
We think there's a strong chance that at some point over the next 18 months--perhaps this fall, for the long 2014 model year during which the Model X will not arrive--Tesla will announce a new all-wheel-drive option for the Model S.
We're not going to hazard any guesses about performance, pricing, or other options.
But that's our semi-informed prediction for today: Watch for the 2014 Tesla Model S to offer all-wheel drive.
[NOTE: Our ready AReddy notes that Tesla CEO Elon Musk answered a question on this topic when he spoke at the Tesla Store in Norway last month.
At about 41:15 in the video, an audience member asks whether "four-wheel drive" for the Model S will "ever be a reality."
Musk responds, "It's not going to happen soon; that I could rule out" and then segues into a discussion of how well the traction control on the rear-wheel-drive Model S works on snow and ice.
"Unless you're going to go off-road," Musk concludes, "I would say you probably don't [need it]."]
What do you think? Is this a logical next step for Tesla, until the Model X arrives? Or will the company offer some other options first?
Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.
[hat tip: Seeking Alpha]