Tesla Unveils Model Y: What You Need to Know

Late Thursday night, electric-car company Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) unveiled its follow-up act to its Model 3. The company pulled the curtains back on its Model Y sport-utility vehicle -- a midsize SUV priced similarly to its mass-market Model 3 sedan.

While deliveries of the new vehicle won't start for over a year, the Model Y is an important step in Tesla's plan to bring compelling, fully electric cars to the masses. Before the company's mid-2017 launch of its Model 3, Tesla's vehicles were too expensive for most consumers. But the Model 3 -- and now the Model Y -- encapsulate the company's concerted effort to make its vehicles more accessible to a larger customer base.

Model Y: The specs

Starting at $39,000 for the standard range version of the vehicle, the Model Y is about 11% more expensive than the Model 3. A price difference that makes sense since the SUV is about 10% larger than the Model 3.

Don't expect deliveries anytime soon though. Tesla doesn't plan to start shipping Model Y units until fall of next year -- and initial deliveries will be high-end variants only, including performance, long-range, and dual-motor versions. These versions start at $60,000, $47,000, and $51,000, respectively. The standard-range Model Y for $39,000 won't start shipping until spring of 2021.

The vehicle comes in two seat configurations: Five or seven seats. But customers will have to pay an extra $3,000 to get the seven-seat configuration. And the seven-seat setup won't be available until 2020.

In typical Tesla fashion, all of the Model Y variants boast wild acceleration times, ranging from a zero-to-60 mph time of 5.9 seconds for the standard-range version and a 3.5 second time for the performance version.

Big expectations

A Model Y fills a missing spot in Tesla's vehicle lineup. When Tesla's luxury Model S sedan was the company's only vehicle in production, the launch of its Model X -- Tesla's full-size SUV -- essentially doubled the company's addressable market and doubled annual sales volume. But the lower-cost Model 3 sedan currently doesn't have a counterpart the way the Model S does. The Model Y will fill that void, giving Tesla's business a key catalyst.

With midsize sedans outselling cars in many of the world's top auto markets, it's safe to say that the Model Y could rival or even surpass Model 3 sales volume. And with Model 3 accounting for about 70% of the company's 91,000 vehicle deliveries in Q4, the sport-utility vehicle may provide a substantial lift to Tesla's overall vehicle sales volume.

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Daniel Sparks owns shares of Tesla. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Tesla. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.