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Tesla Model Y SUV to come sooner, thanks to Model 3 platform

Changing course from prior statements that the upcoming Tesla Model Y would be based on a whole new platform, Elon Musk said today the new SUV would carry over much of the engineering from the Model 3, which has just begun production.

Tesla Model Y
Tesla released this teaser image of its Model Y small SUV earlier this year.

The next car Tesla intends to produce, the Model Y small SUV, will be largely based on the Model 3 platform, according to CEO Elon Musk. That position represents a change from Musk's past statements where he said the Model Y would use a completely new platform.

During Tesla's second quarter earnings call, Musk said, "The Model Y will be using substantial carryover from Model 3, which means it will come to market much faster." 

That strategy looks similar to how Tesla based the Model X SUV chassis on that of the Model S sedan. That means many of the suspension components and other pieces designed for the Model 3 could also be used for the Model Y, speeding up development and manufacturing time. It also means that the Model Y will likely have similar dimensions to the Model 3, albeit with a taller stance. The Model Y will also likely use similar battery configurations to the Model 3.

Musk acknowledged the importance of the SUV market, describing it as the "biggest product segment in the world." That statement reflects current sales for cars like the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Ford Escape, among other small SUVs, which all occupy spots in the top 10 of US car sales. The Model Y would represent a big growth area for Tesla.

Simplifying Model Y production by basing it on the Model 3 would help Tesla take advantage of these current sales trends. However, Musk did not offer a new timeline for production of the Model Y during the call. Previously he has said 2020 would be a reasonable goal.

Musk also said Tesla would be announcing three new factory locations by the end of the year. While more battery manufacturing seems likely, in a previous statement Musk said Model Y production would require a new factory.