Mechanical and logistical complexities meant Tesla stopped production of RHD cars
Frustrated buyers flock to rival dealerships after latest shock move; experts predict few LHD cars will be sold
Customers who had been waiting years for delivery of new Tesla Model S and Tesla Model X vehicles are cancelling their orders in the wake of the firm’s decision to supply the cars in left-hand drive only, albeit with three years’ free Supercharger use.
Tesla’s announcement on 12 May that it would cease production of right-hand-drive versions due to mechanical and logistical complexities took customers by surprise and many rushed to express their shock on social media.
Among them was Tesla owner Paul Jones: “I’m a 2018 Model S 100D owner since new and a Model S Plaid order holder since October 2021. I love the cars [but this decision] is a kick in the teeth. To be told repeatedly since 2021 my car is delayed but is coming and now this, without explanation, is very poor.
Harry Green, another disenchanted Tesla buyer, promptly ordered a new car from a rival maker: “I’ve had a Model X on order since October 2020. Ordering a Mercedes EQS now.”
Others, including John Scarrott, were worried about using a left-hand-drive car in the UK: “Overtaking is so risky, as you have to get half the car onto the other side of the road to see what’s coming.”
To address this and similar concerns, Tesla has said it will run events between 28 May and 30 June when reservation holders can experience test driving left-hookers in London.
Dealers were also caught off guard by Tesla’s decision. “It just came out of the blue,” said Richard Symons, owner of R Symons, an EV specialist based in Hampshire.
Symons said his dealership is occasionally offered used, left-hand-drive Model S cars but demand for them is extremely small.
He said: “It’s a niche market and my fear is that the new left-hand-drive models will lose a lot of money very quickly and especially so if Tesla decides to restart imports of right-hand-drive versions, which, being unpredictable, it could.
Tesla’s announcement is the latest in a series of moves by the company that have rocked the market for new and used electric cars. In January, it slashed around £7000 off the price of the Model 3 and Model Y and then a further £4000 off the Model 3 two months later.
The cuts depressed the values of not only used Teslas but also many competitor models. By April, Cap HPI was reporting that, year on year, values of EVs at 12 months old and with 20,000 miles were down 20%, and at three years and 60,000 miles down 25%.
Reviewing Tesla’s latest move, Dylan Setterfield, head of forecast strategy at Cap HPI, doubted the decision to stop imports of right-hand-drive Model S and Model X cars would have much impact on the appeal and values of cars currently registered.
He said: “There are relatively low numbers of both in the UK. Just over 11,000 examples of Model S were registered between 2013 and 2021 and less than 6500 Model X between 2016 and 2021. These figures pale into insignificance against the more than 90,000 Model 3s already on the roads and the more than 80,000 Model Ys, which will have been registered by the end of this year.
“Both S and X have elements of attractiveness for used car buyers and the recent falls in their values have brought them back to what we see as reasonable price levels.”
On whether RHD cars could be worth more than the new LHD versions, Setterfield said he didn’t expect many LHD examples would be sold and that, in any case, no RHD models had been registered since 2021.
For Martin Miller, founder of EV Experts, which has branches in Surrey and Hampshire, the question was academic. He said: “I won’t stock a Model S or X, be it right- or left-hand drive.
The S felt wonderful in 2014 when it was launched but it hasn’t aged well and there are now much better competitors. “In my experience, reliability and quality are also inconsistent. The X is just too large and is easily damaged. I wouldn’t invest my money in either model.”
As Tesla’s decision sinks in, it’s a conclusion that more prospective buyers of new Model S and X cars may also reach.