Tesla Inc will deliver a high-performance version of its Model S on Thursday, aiming to reignite interest in the nearly decade-old sedan and fend off rivals such as Porsche, Mercedes-Benz and Lucid Motors in the luxury electric vehicle market.
Tesla redefined electric cars in 2012 when it launched its high-end Model S with a sleek design and long driving range, but is facing a raft of new challengers.
The automaker plans to livestream the delivery of the first Model S Plaid at its U.S. factory in Fremont, California, at 7 p.m. local time (0200 GMT on Friday).
Attendants are required to “wear a mask and provide proof of COVID vaccination or a negative COVID test result received within 72 hours prior to the event,” according to Tesla`s email posted by a Twitter user.
CEO Elon Musk has not said whether he will take the stage, but he has been on Twitter promoting the new model, which is priced at $129,990 against $79,990 for a long-range Model S.
The latest price for the Model S Plaid is $10,000 more than what was displayed on Wednesday on Tesla`s website.
“The Model S has not been changing a lot in terms of looks over the past almost decade,” said Jessica Caldwell, executive director at car information provider Edmunds. “I think Tesla has to offer consumers something more … like new and fun things.”
The launch of the Model S Plaid, which has already been showcased online, has faced delay and some controversy over an expected airplane-style yoke steering wheel. Musk canceled another variant, Model S Plaid+, which would have had a 33% higher driving range than the Model S Plaid and used advanced battery technology, known as 4680 cells.
“The Model S Plaid is definitely intended to help reduce the migration of current Tesla owners out of Tesla,” said Ed Kim, vice president at consultancy AutoPacific. “I think what we`re seeing now is that Tesla can no longer operate in a vacuum.”
He said Model S Plaid is a low-volume, halo model aimed at showcasing the automaker and generating excitement around the sedan, with Tesla needing to successfully roll out new models like Cybertruck and Semi trucks to expand its customer base.
Musk has called the Model S Plaid “the fastest accelerating car ever.”
The more powerful sports sedan goes from zero to 60 miles per hour (97 kph) in 1.99 seconds and has an estimated driving range of 390 miles (627.6 km).
While it offers little change in body style, the Plaid is also expected to feature – in addition to yoke steering – enhanced gaming with new titles and more powerful processors.
Tesla delivered only 2,020 Model S/Xs in the first quarter, down from 18,920 the previous quarter, hampered by production delays.
Musk said in April that production of its new Model S and X would be “contingent on global supply chain issues.”
Tesla shares were up 1.8% at $609.63 on Thursday morning.