FREMONT, Calif. -- When most companies conceive a car, the designers shoot for the moon and the engineers bring them down to Earth. Elon Musk, the space-travel mogul and CEO of Tesla Motors Inc., wasn't having that with his Model X.
Musk's all-electric three-row crossover finally saw the light of day last week, 3 1/2 years after he unveiled a prototype. At a splashy event here attended by thousands of customers, Tesla delivered the first few units of the Model X to a select group of investors and showed off features that include falcon-wing doors, a sky-view windshield and an enormous air filter with a maxed-out option that Musk dubbed "bioweapon defense mode."
Had he known how difficult the engineering on these features would be, Musk told reporters before the unveiling, he might have reined in his ambitions.
"I think we got a little carried away," Musk said. "In retrospect, we would not have done so much in the way of features and functionality for the X," he added. "People are going to get an incredible car that does so many things that no other car does, but it didn't need to do quite as many things."
This offers a valuable lesson about simplicity for Tesla, which intends to use cash flow from sales of the Model X to fund Musk's true automotive moonshot: the smaller and less expensive Model 3, due in late 2017 at a starting price around $35,000. But for now, Tesla can offer a list of outlandish features for the Model X -- and hope that its loyal customers, many of whom long ago plopped down deposits of $5,000 to $40,000 for the right to buy a car someday, consider those features to have been worth the wait.