The forthcoming Model X, whose design was first revealed last month, has been described primarily as having the practical features of a minivan and the toughness an SUV–along with sportscar-like doors that open upward like “falcon wings,” as they’re called. But a new look at the design strategies behind the Model X, by McClatchy/Tribune News reporter Dana Hull, shows that many of the sexy, sturdy new auto’s features were intended to attract female buyers in particular.
As Hull writes,
The Model X is described on Tesla’s website as being an automobile “built around the driver — and six of her friends.” To make sure the design team was on the right track, Tesla last year invited a dozen Palo Alto, Calif.-area women to its headquarters for a free-wheeling, three-hour-long focus group led by Franz von Holzhausen, Tesla’s chief designer. Also, several of the designers who worked on the Model X are women, including Nancy Holman, Susanne Neuhauser and Kimberly Marte.
Here are the insights Tesla’s designers came up with to make the Model X mom-friendly:
- Safety is a top issue, including safely helping children get in and out of car seats.
- Having easy access to a third row of minivan (or SUV) seats is important–in terms of getting kids, groceries, and gear from these areas quickly
- Both appearance and functionality are important
- Many SUV drivers really don’t like climbing up into a vehicle
Interestingly, in many ways, the “falcon wing” passenger doors of the Model X–which may bring to mind 1980s DeLorean sportscar images, including goofy Back to the Future movie flashbacks–actually address many of these design challenges beautifully.
“The focus group was great because it validated a lot of our own thinking,” von Holzhausen told Hull. “Women don’t want an overly feminine vehicle — they want to feel secure. But it has to be aggressive enough for a guy to feel confident as well. We didn’t want to make a Hello Kitty edition.”
So far, about 500 reservations for the Model X have been placed. Those already committed to buying the car include von Holzhausen’s own mother, who has four grandkids to cart around, as well as Bonnie Norman, a Tesla Roadster owner in northern California who changed her original reservation for the swankier Tesla Model S, a luxury sedan, for a Model X. “I dropped my Model S reservation because I need the extra space — the X is ideal for road trips, camping, and when family visits,” Norman told Hull.
Reservations for the Model X start at $5,000 for the basic model, and $40,000 for the limited-edition, high-end Model X Signature. The final prices haven’t been made public yet (although they’re expected to begin in the high $50,000s), and the car is scheduled for a 2014 release.
Anticipation is high; according to Tesla Motors, the Model X is the fastest-selling Tesla to date. The day after the design was revealed to the public in February, and without any advertising, advance sales of the Model X were over $40 million–suggesting that Tesla’s design strategies really did pay off.
Image: Joe Wolf/Flickr
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