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Friday, February 10, 2012

Tesla Model X Falcon Doors

Telsa has unveiled their Model X crossover vehicle, which looks something like an enlarged Honda Crosstour or BMW X6. It is a beautiful design, overall, with elegant proportions. The most striking feature of the design are the "falcon wing" doors, which are like gullwing doors with a hinge, so they move more upward than outward as they swing open.

There are good reasons why mainstream auto makers stick with traditional swinging or sliding doors for their designs.

Upward opening doors are:
  • Harder to seal reliably (more gasket area, different closing forces)
  • Harder for passengers to open and close manually 
  • Slow to open and close if they are electric, or in an emergency
  • If the vehicle rolls over, the doors are difficult to open
  • More work in terms of crash engineering

And, this design would preven a customer from mounting a roof rack for skis or bicycles.

Tesla could have simply designed a nice set of sliding doors, but it is clear they want to be different. I think the electric powertrain and Silicon Valley pedigree of the vehicle makes it different enough.

They also have a significant risk in terms of market demand for this type of vehicle--neither the BMW X6 nor the Honda Crosstour are selling very well.

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