Tesla confirmed it’s no longer offering right-hand-drive variants of the Model S and the Model X. Both EVs are now left-hand-drive only purportedly in a bid to keep costs in check by streamlining the production process, and the firm is giving buyers in right-hand-drive markets several options.
Citing an anonymous Tesla representative, British magazine Autocar reported that the right-hand-drive S and X models have been canned “due to the mechanical and logistical complexity added by the conversion.” In many ways, this move hardly comes as a surprise: Tesla has historically offered fewer paint colors, upholstery colors and options than its rivals to make its production process as simple as possible.
This isn’t a temporary move; the S and the X will be left-hand-drive-only “for the foreseeable future,” according to the report. It adds that, beyond making the production process more streamlined, axing the right-hand-drive versions will also help Tesla improve build quality.
Buyers in right-hand-drive markets like the United Kingdom, Japan, and Hong Kong find themselves at a crossroads. British reservation holders can either settle for a left-hand-drive car, which is far from ideal in a nation whose infrastructure is built for right-hand-drive cars, claim a £2,000 (about $2,500) credit that they can apply to a Model 3 or a Model Y, or cancel their order and shop for a new car that’s designed for their market. It’s worth noting that the move only applies to the S and the X; the 3 and the Y are offered with right-hand-drive.
Right-hand-drive markets represent a small slice of the automotive landscape, so it’s not unusual for companies to decide that investing in a country-specific version of a low-volume car isn’t worth the trouble. Historically, the Citroën SM, the Alpine A310, and the Audi Quattro are among the cars that were only offered with left-hand-drive. Even the first-generation Volkswagen Golf GTI was left-hand-drive only until about three years after its debut. However, sometimes the opposite applies: demand for the Ram 1500 is so high in Australia that executives are considering building right-hand-drive trucks on the same production line as left-hand-drive models instead of converting them locally.