has already made clear their intentions to expand their product line beyond the Lotus Elise
based roadster that's due this summer. They've previously announced plans for at least the sedans, one in the $50,000-70,000 range and another down at the $30,000 range
. Now comes word via TheCarConnection that Tesla
has opened up a tech center in Auburn Hills, MI, north of Detroit and has hired a dozen engineers there. The Michigan tech center will initially be working on the $50,000 vehicle which is code-named "White Star" and may turn out to be a sedan/crossover
. A crossover would make more sense at this point than a sedan, because the higher floor would allow space for a larger battery pack to maintain the range achieved by the lighter roadster in the larger form factor vehicle.
The product timing for this second vehicle is pretty aggressive since it will be a new-from-the-ground-up vehicle, meant to have substantially higher production volumes than the Roadster, which is derived from an existing vehicle structure. Designing, certifying and tooling up such a product in only a couple of years is hard for an established manufacturer that has facilities in place. It seems likely that Tesla will probably team up with a company like Magna or ASC, that have built full concept vehicles
and have been itching to get a niche production program like this for years. The fact that they have set up shop in Michigan definitely points in this direction.