Elon Musk got sold on futuristic Tesla Model 2 design and its mass production sharing with the robotaxi

Compact EV design drawing (image: Tesla)
Compact EV design drawing (image: Tesla)

What sealed the deal for Elon Musk to greenlight the production of Tesla’s cheapest car, dubbed the Model 2, was its design. ‘When one of these comes around a corner, people will think they are seeing something from the future,’ he reportedly quipped.

The upcoming book on Elon Musk by the resident writer of such magnum opuses Walter Isaacson (of Steve Jobs biography fame) is a gift that keeps on giving when it comes to revealing Tesla’s plans, past and future. The latest excerpt talks about the team’s musings how to proceed with the autonomous robotaxi and its less ambitious spinoff, the Model 2 mass market electric car.

Apparently, Elon Musk only warmed up to the idea of a sub-US$25,000 car this February when he was served its design drawings next to the robotaxi. “When one of these comes around a corner, people will think they are seeing something from the future,” he reportedly said, indicating that what he has been looking for is a convention-busting design that will be as trailblazing as the one of the Cybertruck.

Previously, the report says, he has been adamant that Tesla’s first mass market electric vehicle should be the long-teased robotaxi with no steering wheel, pedals, or mirrors. He was reportedly very excited about its potential and said with his characteristic visionary zeal that the robotaxi “is the product that makes Tesla a ten-trillion company” so “people will be talking about this moment in a hundred years.”

It was Tesla’s design head Franz von Holzhausen who had to inventively bring Elon Musk back to earth by drafting a futuristic design for both the Model 2, and the robotaxi. “If we go down a path of having no steering wheel, and FSD is not ready, we won’t be able to put them on the road,” he allegedly told Musk, and got a sharp rebuttal from Tesla’s CEO:

Let me be clear. This vehicle must be designed as a clean robotaxi. We’re going to take that risk. It’s my fault if it f–ks up. But we are not going to design some sort of amphibian frog that’s a halfway car. We are all in on autonomy.

Last September, the team’s knowledge of Elon Musk’s character helped them arrive at a solution that will see both EVs built at once. The “next-gen vehicle platform” that will be assembled at the new Gigafactory in Mexico would allow the Model 2 and the robotaxi to be built at the same assembly lines in a highly automated, fast production process.

What sealed the deal for Elon Musk, however, besides the excitement around creating a brand new manufacturing process for mass market EVs from scratch, was the Model 2’s design. While it is still not clear how Tesla’s cheapest car will look like, there have been some hints. Earlier this year, insiders claimed that it will resemble a smaller Model Y, suggesting a 5-door hatch of sorts, rather than a more compact sedan.

There have been some other hints in the form of mysterious Tesla hatch sketches, too. When Elon Musk announced the launch of Tesla’s Engineering HQ in Palo Alto, the promo video showed a drawing board with various Tesla designs, including versions of the hatchback form factor that Tesla previously teased in job listings.

Whether that’s the design that Elon Musk deemed futuristic enough, remains to be seen, but given what Tesla did with the Cybertruck, the final Model 2 body shape could be more unorthodox than what’s seen on the sketches here. 

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