TAKING ON THE BIG GUNS: Tesla says its new Model S 70D will take on rival offerings from BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Image: AP / Carlos Osorio
DETROIT, Michigan - Tesla Motors is going after mainstream luxury car buyers by adding all-wheel-drive, more range and power to the base version of its Model S electric car.
The added features to the Model S line-up will see a 7% price increase to the equivalent of R887 000. Tesla will stop selling the previous base Model S called the 60.
The previous rear-wheel-drive car, powered by a 283kW electric motor, could travel 335km on a single charge and reach 100km/h in 5.9 seconds.
The new AWD unit, called the 70D, can can travel at a US government-certified 386km, is capable of 383kW and can travel from 0 - 100km/h in 5.2 seconds. Buyers well also have access to Tesla's network of quick-charging stations.
CEO Elon Musk says with a federal tax credit and tax credits in some US states, the new Model S 70D is "competitive with BMW's midsize 5 Series, or the Mercedes E-Class" when you add in savings from not purchasing fuel.
He said Tesla, which is based in Palo Alto, California, needed all-wheel-drive to appeal to luxury buyers, especially in colder climates such as the north-eastern US and Norway.
Musk said in an interview: "It's also good in warm climates where there's heavy rain or slippery roads for any reason. We've seen a strong interest in all-wheel-drive in all climates, really."
Tesla's next vehicle, the Model X SUV, is due to be launched late in 2015 and will be offered with similar features to the Model S. The company also is planning a mainstream car called the Model 3, with a 322km range, due for release in 2017.
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Even with the added features, the 70D will have trouble competing with Mercedes and BMW solely on price, said Tom Libby, an analyst with IHS Automotive in Southfield, Michigan.
Competition with BMW, Mercedes and Audi is driving luxury lease prices down, Libby said.
Musk said he has no plans to spend more on marketing to match Mercedes and BMW even though he's going after more mass-market customers. The company will continue to host events for customers but "there are no plans yet to do advertising or endorsements or any discounting," Musk said.
LUXURY INTERIOR: The huge electronic, instrument panel of the Tesla Model S 70-D electric car. Image: AP / Carlos Osorio