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 Model S P100D

Tesla Model S P100D

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 3," 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

"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.

2016 Tesla Model S

2016 Tesla Model S

That could be viewed as a good omen for the Model 3, which might be able to get more capacity out of fewer cells.

Outside of investing sites, whose authors often have financial interests in supporting or attacking a particular company's actions, the pithiest comments came from two other KBB analysts.

“A clear and realistic path to profitability and sustainability should be Elon’s first priority," said senior analyst Karl Brauer.

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"This is a distraction and a waste of time and resources.”

“This recent announcement from Tesla is eye-opening," said analyst Mike Harley, his colleague, "but nothing more than headline-grabbing showmanship."

Harley noted that true sports cars can maintain their top speeds in multiple laps of a race course, something the highest-performance Tesla versions can't do without overheating.

Tesla Roadster driven by Joe Nuxoll on Laguna Seca racetrack, Re:Fuel event, June 2013

Tesla Roadster driven by Joe Nuxoll on Laguna Seca racetrack, Re:Fuel event, June 2013

Meanwhile, journalists on a conference call about the announcement reported that Musk said he would have no updates on the progress of the Model 3. Tesla says that car will go into production before the end of next year.

Financial and industry analysts also noted that any importance attached to the new 100D cars pales in comparison to the data on Tesla's overall sales, vehicle production rate, and cash flow—each of which is presented with varying degrees of opacity by the company.

Many suggested that if the company doesn't raise additional funds—perhaps as much as $1 billion, well beyond any incremental sales boost provided by the 100D versions—the pair of new versions won't matter much.

The new 100D versions, in other words, will have very little to do with Tesla's dreams of selling hundreds of thousands of electric cars a year.

EDIT NOTE: The quotation from KBB analyst Rebecca Lindland on page 1 of this article originally referred to "the strategy to finance the Model X." As our reader Brandon pointed out, that should have read, "the strategy to finance the Model 3," and we confirmed with Lindland that indeed that was what she had intended. We've changed the wording, and we thank Brandon for his eagle-eyed reading.


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