Tesla steps into hottest auto segment with Model Y debut Thursday

Tesla is about to dive into one of the hottest segments in the automotive market with the long-awaited debut of its Model Y crossover utility vehicle at its design studio in Los Angeles on Thursday night.

CEO Elon Musk has talked about releasing a crossover for years, but he’s kept the electric car maker tightly focused on ramping up production and distribution of its popular Model 3 premium sedan for the mass market. The Model 3 is Tesla’s first foray into vehicles priced well below the company’s high-end Model S sedan, with a base price of $69,250, and Model X SUV, which starts at around $78,450.

The Model Y, which will be unveiled at 11 p.m. EDT, is expected to be a more affordable alternative to its Model X and the company’s first entrance into the hot cross over market. The crossover is expected to be about 10 percent bigger than the Model 3, cost about 10 percent more, and will have slightly less range with the same size battery, Musk said in a March 3 tweet. Many investors and industry analysts say Tesla cannot enter the segment soon enough.

“Light trucks are just so popular in the United States, making up roughly 70 percent of vehicles sold every month,” said Morningstar analyst Dave Whiston. “Crossovers, in particular, are the most popular segment, at nearly 40 percent of new vehicle sales. So to have a more affordable crossover relative to the Model X should be a positive for Tesla.”

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