Tesla 2021: What we expect to see from Elon Musk and company

From the Model S Plaid Plus, Cybertruck and a new Gigafactory, if Tesla's grand developments unfold as promised, 2021 should be a huge year for Team Musk.

Sean Szymkowski
It all started with Gran Turismo. From those early PlayStation days, Sean was drawn to anything with four wheels. Prior to joining the Roadshow team, he was a freelance contributor for Motor Authority, The Car Connection and Green Car Reports. As for what's in the garage, Sean owns a 2016 Chevrolet SS, and yes, it has Holden badges.
Sean Szymkowski
5 min read
Tesla lineup
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Tesla lineup

2021 should be a very big year for the automaker.


is known for many wonderful things, but meeting deadlines has never been one of them. Regardless, the company and CEO Elon Musk have big things promised for this year, and with crazy growth in the company's valuation in 2020, Tesla should have the resources to put more of its ambitious plans into action. Having said all of that, let's take a look at why 2021 is expected to be such a grand year for the electric carmaker. Before we dive in, a caveat: Some of the items below were initially promised for last year -- if not multiple years ago. In the same fashion, there's certainly a possibility (likelihood?) that Tesla will continue to kick some projects further into the future. But, for now, if all goes according to plan, here's what to expect from Tesla in 2021.

Tesla Model S Plaid Plus

Well, we didn't expect to get a refreshed Model S with a new cockpit in 2021, but we did. Now, according to Tesla's timeline, we'll see a new Model S Plaid Plus launch in late 2021. It will come with a $139,900 price tag, 1,100 horsepower and will hit 60 mph in under two seconds. Oh, and it'll go an estimated 520 miles on a single charge, according to the company. In the meantime, orders for the refreshed Model S and Model X Plaid vehicles are open now.

Tesla Cybertruck

This model is absolutely the biggest item on Tesla's 2021 punch list. Revealed in late 2019, the distinctively styled Cybertruck is meant to enter production this year, with its most-powerful tri-motor variant scheduled first. Tesla has said a dual-motor Cybertruck will follow in late 2021, before the most affordable single-motor version rolls out off the assembly line in 2022.

Tesla hasn't given any signal the Cybertruck won't begin production this year, but as mentioned above, the company doesn't have a stellar track record when it comes to production timelines. We certainly hope the Cybertruck arrives this year, but none of us here will be particularly surprised if the electric pickup truck isn't on the road in 2021 -- especially not in meaningful quantities. In fact, CEO Elon Musk confirmed our belief. He said the company will make "a few deliveries," but volume production won't really kick into high gear until 2022.

A new Texas Gigafactory

The upcoming Gigafactory in Austin, Texas, goes hand-in-hand with the Tesla Cybertruck. Currently under construction, this facility will be the home of Elon's wild electric pickup truck, and previous documents have suggested the plant could be ready to build vehicles as soon as May.

The factory is also special for other reasons. It will be Tesla's first plant built from the ground up in the US, as the automaker's sole US plant in California was previously a General Motors/Toyota joint-venture project. Secondly, the Austin factory will open up a swath of production capability to supply the Eastern US with the Model Y crossover SUV. Every single vehicle Tesla builds and sells in the US presently comes from Fremont, California, and shifting some of the manufacturing burden to a new facility will give the Bay Area-based facility significantly more wiggle room. Thirdly, the automaker also previously said its Austin-based facility will also assemble the Tesla Semi. If Tesla wants to continue to grow, its new US factory will be a huge deal this year.

Tesla Cybertruck is like nothing else, and it'll be built in Austin

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Tesla Semi

This is one of those projects that's continuously been one of Tesla's cans to kick down the road. The Semi was meant to start production two years ago after the automaker made a gigantic splash with its reveal. Many big-time corporations quickly got on board with the idea of an electric semi to shuttle their goods around with zero emissions, but so far, we haven't seen much except a handful of on-road tests and various real-world sightings captured on bystanders' smartphones.

It's not clear what the hold up is, but with a new production site in Texas scheduled to come online this year, hopefully 2021 finally brings the electric semi truck to life. Walmart and so many others are waiting.

Tesla Roadster

Of the three confirmed vehicles outstanding from Tesla's lineup, the Roadster seems the least likely to enter series production in 2021. Nevertheless, CEO Elon Musk previously said the electric sports car could finally reach production this year after the Texas factory comes online. He also said, however, that production of the Cybertruck and Semi are higher priority items, hence our educated guess that the sports car may not show up in 2021. If it does, look for it to roll out of Tesla's California assembly plant, not Texas.

A German Gigafactory

Not only is there a new Gigafactory under construction in Texas, but the electric carmaker is busy building another facility just outside of Berlin, Germany. With the German factory, Tesla will have manufacturing footprints in North America, Asia and Europe. Not only will the plant in Europe supply the company's electric cars locally, the factory may be the tipping point for our next item.

The possibility of a cheap, $25,000 Tesla

This is our final new-vehicle entry on the list, and while it's somewhat less expected, it's still possible. Toward the end of 2020, Musk began mentioning the idea of a $25,000 Tesla vehicle at the firm's Battery Day. It's not the first time he's brought such an affordable model up, but hear us out on why we could see it in 2021.

While Tesla has a track record of tardiness when it comes to meeting production deadlines, it does have an excellent track record of revealing new models years before they actually begin production. If the company plans such a car, 2021 could be the year we see before it hits the road in two or three years from now. Aside from talk of a $25,000 model, Musk also mentioned the idea of an electric hatchback, possibly based on the Model 3 for Europe that would serve the continent's drivers better. It's not clear if Musk's thought of a $25,000 car and a hatchback are the same thing or separate vehicles, but regardless, Tesla and Musk like surprises. It's not improbable we'll get one this year.

More markets

While it's now reasonably easy to get a Tesla in most major North American cities, Tesla is still not a going concern in all of the world's major car markets. Among them? India. According to recent reports, that will change in 2021. The company is expected to expand into the Asian nation soon, likely starting with its most affordable offering, the Model 3.

More service centers

Without traditional dealer franchises like other automakers, it's perhaps unsurprising that Tesla's parts and service network has failed to keep pace with its sales ambitions. In 2021, that disparity figures to ease a bit, with the automaker reportedly set to open a new service center approximately once a week all year. In 2019, Tesla deliveries rose by 50%, yet its service-center footprint only grew by 12%. Look for Tesla to make up some ground in this department in 2021, a development that should lead to shorter service wait times, more convenient locations and happier customers.

Watch this: Tesla's latest missed deadlines