Tesla Motors Inc: Options For Model X Door Issues

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Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) has again delayed the launch of the Model X crossover vehicle, this time from the second quarter to the third quarter of next year. Morgan Stanley analysts and others think the repeated launch delays may be due to problems with the complicated falcon doors the automaker has promised on the vehicle.

Nothing specific on Tesla’s delay… yet

But if this is the case, what could Tesla do about it? The Morgan Stanley team offered some suggestions on that and just how serious of a problem those doors might be.

In a report dated Nov. 17, 2014, analyst Adam Jonas and his team note that currently, speculations about the doors causing problems are just that—speculations. Some bloggers have suggested that placing the doors into mass production is creating issues for Tesla.

Model X doors may be too heavy

The analysts believe that one issue Tesla may be dealing with is the form factor and mechanism of the doors. They note that gull-wing doors have been done in the auto industry before but that they are very rare. They also point out that the doors Tesla wants to build are actually falcon doors rather than gull-wing doors because they are double-hinged, while gull-wing doors are single-hinged.

The point of the falcon wing design is to enable the doors on the Model X to be easily opened in small spaces like parking spots and garages. A big issue, however, is probably weight, and the Morgan Stanley team thinks that this is probably an even worse problem with the falcon wing design than with the gull-wing design because of that extra hinge.

Another issue they point out is that the door opening on the Model X might be the biggest one ever in auto industry history. Tesla management aims to allow third row passengers to “walk into” the vehicle behind the second row. Once again, this could make the door heavy, possibly too hard to lift. Also having a hole of that size in the vehicle that cuts so deeply into the roof could have serious negative impacts on the structure which would impact both safety and handling.

Tesla’s options on the Model X

Of course Tesla has two options if it really is the doors that are causing problems: ditch them or keep them. The Morgan Stanley team notes that the automaker may have to delay the Model X launch yet again. Another possibility if the doors are kept is a slow ramp in production so that quality can be ensured early in the launch.

The analysts say Tesla might have to add “significant additional content,” like sensors, high-strength materials, seals,” [or] actuators.” They add that if the Model X is delayed again though, the launch of the Model 3 could be pushed back as well, possibly to early 2017.

While it’s possible that Tesla could ditch the falcon wing doors, the Morgan Stanley team doesn’t think it’s likely. In fact, they think the doors are “an extremely important selling point for the Model X.”

However, if the automaker does ditch them, they think it is working on plan B with traditional doors. If Tesla isn’t doing this, then they say the company would have to substantially redesign and re-engineer the aluminum body, including the roof, in order to transition to the falcon wing doors.

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