Tesla Model X: Press Conference Friday Could Reveal Final Version

Tesla Model X - H 2014
Courtesy of Tesla Motors

Tesla Model X - H 2014

CEO Elon Musk will also likely face questions about increased competition from electric car startups staffed with former executives from Tesla, BMW, GM and Lamborghini.

Tesla Motors emailed reporters Thursday that it would hold a call-in press conference with CEO Elon Musk Friday at 11 a.m. PT.

As usual with Tesla's impromptu, often last-minute communiques with the media, it set off a flurry of speculation in the automotive press.

The most plausible explanation is that Tesla is announcing the final production version of its Model X crossover SUV, which is years behind schedule but which Musk has pledged will go on sale this fall.

Other possibilities include an update on the $35,000 Model 3 — Tesla's bid to manufacture a mass-market electric car — which is not due until 2017.

General Motors has been rattling Tesla's cage lately by promoting testing videos of its $30,000 Bolt plug-in, which will have a 200-mile range and compete directly with the Model 3. GM has said the Bolt will go on sale in 2016, a year ahead of the Model 3.

The Model 3 is seen as crucial to Tesla's transition to becoming a high-volume automaker. Musk has set a goal of selling 500,000 cars by 2020 and Tesla is building an immense Gigafactory in Nevada to supply batteries in numbers sufficient to sustain the company's growth.

Separately, as The Hollywood Reporter reported Wednesday, a California startup stocked with former executives from Tesla and mainstream car companies including BMW, Volvo and GM, is developing an electric car with comparable range and appointments as Tesla's Model S sedan

Faraday Future, based in Gardena, Calif., is evaluating sites in several states to manufacture the car, which the company says will go on sale in 2017.

Anton Wahlman, an automobile analyst with Seeking Alpha, reported Thursday that Atieva, another startup staffed with Tesla alumni, including former Tesla board member Bernard Tse, may partner with Aston Martin to develop a 1,000 horsepower electric luxury sedan.

Tesla already faces increased competition from electric cars from Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Porsche, Audi and Volvo either already on the market — such as BMW's well-received i3 electric and i8 plug-in hybrid supercar — or due in the next two to three years. Wahlman expects a flurry of further electric car introductions at the 2015 Frankfurt Auto Show in September.

While the agenda of Tesla's press conference Friday hasn't been revealed, Musk will likely face questions about Tesla's strategy in a market segment that it largely created but increasingly no longer has to itself.