Ford Motor Co. paid $199,950 -- $55,000 more than the sticker price -- to buy one of the first sport utility vehicles made by Tesla Motors Inc., according to vehicle registration documents obtained by Bloomberg.
The white Model X is a Founders Series with a vehicle identification number indicating it was the 64th one made at Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California. The vehicle, with Michigan plates, has been spotted recently in the Detroit area. Registration records show that Ford purchased the vehicle March 1. The original owner, a California coin dealer, bought it as part of Tesla’s customer-referral promotion.
Automakers often buy cars made by competitors for road testing and for “tear-downs” to reveal components and materials and how they’re put together. But it’s unusual to pay such a high price -- almost $212,000 after Michigan sales tax and title -- for such an early model.
“Wow, I hope that investment pays off in some good intelligence,” Michelle Krebs, senior analyst for researcher Autotrader.com, said of the premium Ford paid. “If you’re going to be one of the early buyers, you’re probably going to pay well over list. But that’s significant.”
Krebs suspects other major automakers, such as General Motors Co. and Toyota Motor Corp., are also among early buyers of the Model X. Automakers are looking for ways to make highly profitable SUVs more fuel efficient as they race to meet a federal mandate to average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Ford is investing $4.5 billion in electrified vehicles and will add 13 electric cars and hybrids by 2020.
“We’re going to definitely see more electrification and light-weighting,” Krebs said. “Those are the things I suspect Ford would be taking special note of as they develop their sport utilities of the future.”
Krebs said she hopes Chief Executive Officer Mark Fields and Executive Chairman Bill Ford -- as well as the automaker’s top engineers and designers -- get some seat time in the Model X.
“Everybody should be exposed to one of your hottest competitors,” Krebs said.
Tesla’s first Model Xs are limited-edition Founders Series -- fewer than 100 of them were made -- that typically go to board members and close friends of the company like Google co-founder Sergey Brin. Those are followed by the Signature Series models, which require a $40,000 deposit from customers and start at $132,000. The window sticker price on the all-wheel-drive Model X P90D that Ford purchased is $144,950, including the $10,000 Ludicrous Speed Upgrade that boasts a 0-to-60 miles per hour time of 3.2 seconds.