What looks like a new version of the Tesla Model S was recently spotted cruising through Palo Alto, California, just a few weeks after the company hit pause on its vehicle production lines.
The Kilowatts, a YouTube channel focused on electric-powered travel, posted a video on Friday of what appears to be a Tesla Model S with an updated look puttering about near the company’s headquarters earlier that same day. This previously unseen design looks like it has a wider body than the Model S, updated headlights and wheels, a new rear diffuser, and a more pronounced fender.
Of course, all that’s just speculation. You can judge for yourself in the video below, which shows off some dashcam footage and a few shots of the car.
It’s not clear whether this mystery vehicle, which was seen with manufacturer license plates, is a refreshed version of the Model S or possibly a prototype of the upcoming Model S Plaid, an upcoming high-performance variant of Tesla’s flagship sedan. The company has said it plans to roll out the Model S Plaid sometime later this year with a starting price of roughly $140,000.
It’s equally unclear whether Tesla incorporated any internal changes into the design spotted by the Kilowatts crew. But even without functional changes, a redesigned Model S could certainly drum up excitement for Tesla’s higher-end line. And with Tesla just barely missing its goal of building and delivering half a million cars in 2020, it would make sense for the company to want to hit the ground running this year with a brand new revamp.
Could this redesign be part of the reason Tesla abruptly shut down manufacturing for its Model S and Model X lines recently? According to an email reviewed by CNBC, the company notified its employees last month that production lines for those models would close from Dec. 24 to Jan. 11. at its Fremont, California, factory. While the company’s reasons for shutting down these lines are unknown, perhaps reoutfitting the factory to produce this new variant could have prompted the closure. The outlet speculated at the time that demand for Model S and Model X cars may have taken a heavy hit from a recent recall of nearly 50,000 of those vehicles in China over potentially faulty and unsafe suspensions. Tesla has also expanded its warranty and begun refunding owners of these older models after both lines started experiencing technical issues.
CEO Elon Musk hasn’t spoken publically about the temporary closure, so all of these are just theories for now. Tesla did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment and we will update this blog with the company’s response, though since it dissolved its PR team in October, that may be a while...
However, Musk did post a tweet Saturday commending Tesla’s record sales this year. In a weekend press release, Tesla said it built 509,737 vehicles in 2020, a roughly 40% increase from 2019, and delivered 499,550 vehicles. That’s just 450 units short of the company’s goal to deliver half a million cars for the year, but still an impressive milestone given the absolute trash fire 2020 has been.
“So proud of the Tesla team for achieving this major milestone! At the start of Tesla, I thought we had (optimistically) a 10% chance of surviving at all,” Musk wrote.