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Tesla Unveils All-Wheel-Drive Version of Model S Sedan


The newest Tesla electric car is an all-wheel-drive version of the Model S sedan with two motors and safety features including driver-assisting tools intended to prevent crashes.

Elon Musk, chief executive officer of Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA), said the dual motors accelerate the car from zero to 60 miles per hour (97 kilometers per hour) in 3.2 seconds. “Yeah, it’s mad,” Musk said to laughter before hundreds of guests at the company’s design headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

“This car is nuts. It’s like taking off from a carrier deck,” Musk, 43, said at a ceremony unveiling the new model late yesterday. “It’s really mind-blowing.”

The design better positions the carmaker in cold-weather markets such as New York and Boston, where many consumers demand all-wheel drive to navigate snowy, wet roads. It also aligns Tesla against luxury brands including Bayerische Motoren Werke AG’s BMW, Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz and Toyota Motor Corp. (7203)’s Lexus.

The starting price is $120,170 for the dual-motor option and technology package, smart air suspension and 21-inch wheels, spokeswoman Alexis Georgeson said.

The introduction ended days of speculation and, for Tesla fans, anticipation. Features include forward-looking radar that can penetrate fog, snow and sand to avoid accidents, and a camera that can identify signs and pedestrians, Musk said. The car can also park itself, he said.

New Page

The features mark a new page in the 11-year-old company’s story as it moves to establish relevance for electric vehicles among the broader public.

The model is in line with what analysts including Brian Johnson at Barclays Plc (BARC) predicted this week.

From 2009 through the first six months of 2014, the rate of premium luxury buyers who opted for all-wheel drive rose to 46 percent from 33 percent, according Edmunds.com. Particularly in the luxury market, all-wheel drive is “an expected option,” Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book, said in a telephone interview before the announcement.

Tesla lost $62 million on sales of $769 million in the three months ending June 30. The company, which delivered 7,579 of its Model S cars in that quarter, has had trouble keeping up with demand, Musk said in a shareholder letter.

Shares Gain

The electric-car maker’s shares have increased 71 percent this year, compared with 3.9 percent for the Russell 1000 Index. Tesla fell less than 1 percent to $257.01 at the close in New York yesterday.

Skepticism about the stock lingers. Musk himself told CNBC last month that the shares were “kind of high.”

Adam Jonas, an analyst at Morgan Stanley (MS) who has an overweight rating on Tesla, wrote in a September note that he agreed with Musk. Shares slid.

Electric vehicles are “failing categorically on a global scale,” Jonas said. Tesla’s growth may be limited in China and battery-powered cars still require technological breakthroughs to become mainstream, he said.

“Some people view Tesla as a company that’s going to make electric vehicles affordable for the masses. We think that’s false,” Jonas said in a phone interview. “Tesla is making ridiculously high-performance cars for the wealthy to enjoy.”

(Source: Bloomberg)