2014 Tesla Model S in ChinaEnlarge Photo
The Tesla rumor mill is never quiet for long, and the latest one suggests that the company is developing a long-wheelbase version of its Model S sedan, specifically for the Chinese market.
Tesla Motors just recently launched in China, obviously a key market for it and every other automaker, and one in which rear-seat room may be a more important selling point than anywhere else on the planet.
It used to be that roughly half of new-car buyers in China had never driven before, so they were content to be chauffeured around--meaning that carmakers developed long-wheelbase versions of even mass-market sedans, just to increase the space in the rear compartment.
First Tesla Model S cars delivered to UK customersEnlarge Photo
That's no longer the case, according to many we've spoken to--and in the luxury segments where Tesla competes, nine out of 10 buyers now drive themselves at least some of the time.
But rear-compartment space remains important, so it might stand to reason that Tesla would develop a longer Model S, as reported yesterday by Gas 2.0 and attributed to "a tipster inside Tesla who asked to remain anonymous."
However, we're much more inclined to believe that Tesla is focusing all its energies right now on completing its delayed Model X crossover utility vehicle, which is now due to go into mass production in the second quarter of next year.
That vehicle could well outsell the Model S sedan over its lifetime, Tesla has said, and CEO Elon Musk has referred to the challenges of getting the Model X completely right on introduction.
2013 Tesla Model S on ferry to Horseshoe Bay, Canada [photo: owner Vincent Argiro]Enlarge Photo
Until that happens, we'd say that a LWB Model S is a distinctly lower priority.
Could it happen? Sure. But given the need for Tesla to design and test different and longer single-piece body-side stampings, it's not a trivial task.
So we'd only expect it to happen when Tesla sets up its manufacturing plant in China, as it has said it will do in the next few years assuming sales in that market grow as expected.
The Model X is just more important to the future of Tesla Motors.
We've been wrong before, but we're putting this one into the "Maybe Later" file for now.