By Dana Hull
San Jose Mercury News.
SAN JOSE, Calif.
When Tesla Motors’ long-delayed Model X, designed to blend the best of a sport utility vehicle with the benefits of a minivan, starts deliveries to customers in late 2015, Tesla will gain entry to two critical and overlapping markets for the auto industry: SUV buyers and women.
Tesla does not release demographic information about its customers, but ownership of its all-electric Model S sedan skews decidedly male.
In 2013, men accounted for 85.8 percent of Model S registrations, according to IHS Automotive, which tracks new vehicle registrations by gender. But the all-electric X could change all that. Smaller SUVs are wildly popular among female drivers, and Tesla designed the X with women in mind.
At Tesla’s shareholder’s meeting in June, a woman advised CEO Elon Musk to make the vehicles “a little bit more women-favored.”
“That’s a good point,” said Musk. “We’re certainly paying more attention to the needs of women in the Model X, and I think you’re right, we probably got a little too guy-centric on the S. So, we’re hoping to correct that with the X.”
That is what Lisa Merkord is counting on. Merkord lives in a rural area and drives her 11-year-old son to school and band practice in her Chevy Volt.
But for her 52nd birthday last year, her husband gave her a surprise gift: a reservation for the Model X.
“We really need more seating,” said Merkor. “We live 15 miles from school, and for any kind of socializing it means schlepping kids around. This is definitely going to be my car. I’m thinking we’ll get it in September, but I’m willing to wait forever.”
The X is also critical to Tesla’s ambitions as an automaker. Trucks and SUVs now account for a larger share of the market than sedans: in November, pickup trucks and SUVs accounted for 54 percent of new auto sales, while cars were just 46 percent, according to Edmunds.com.