Tesla Model Y electric crossover SUVs land in NZ. Is Australia next?

So close… and yet so far. Three Tesla Model Y SUVs – the US electric vehicle maker’s newest production model that is not yet available to order in either Australia or New Zealand – have arrived in Auckland.

The Model Ys are not destined for customer test drives nor future owners, it would seem. And neither are some early Model 3s and a Model S that have arrived on the same cargo ship.

Rather, there is much speculation about whether the three Model Ys have arrived for evaluation on New Zealand roads or to go through winter testing at the Southern Hemisphere Proving Grounds near Wanaka on New Zealand’s South Island.

Tesla vehicle and parts tracker Vedaprime announced the arrival of the vehicles via Twitter on Wednesday morning.

EXCLUSIVE news on #Tesla #ModelY,” he wrote.

“3 Model Y have arrived in Auckland, New Zealand from Tesla on ANL Warrnambool Monday night. Likely there for winter testing as we have seen with other new models. This could be the first sign of Tesla preparing for more Model Y markets.”

The three vehicles are early models, according to Vedaprime, who tracks Tesla vehicles using Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs). There is no indication, however, of whether the vehicles are right-hand or left-hand drive.

Unfortunately, the arrival of the Model Y – which is the crossover version of the Model 3 but which features various high-level improvements such as a single-piece aluminium casting at the rear and a highly efficient heat pump using an innovative “octovalve” – does not necessarily herald its Southern Hemisphere release.

When asked, Tesla Australia said only that timing for an Australia/New Zealand release had not yet been announced. When Tesla first sent the Model 3 in 2017 to the New Zealand proving grounds, it was well after order books had opened for it in the region.

Vedaprime reports this is the first time Tesla has exported the Model Y outside North America, excluding 8 private vehicles.

He also noted that the vehicles had been put on trucks and asked New Zealand followers to report if the vehicles were seen, with the expectation that they would head straight to the South Island.

Interestingly, along with the three Model Y vehicles were a Model S, and three Model 3s, one of each from 2018, 2019 and 2020. If the Model Ys are headed for the proving grounds there is a likelihood that this may also be the case for the other vehicles.

If so, there is also speculation about what might be the reason for re-testing these vehicles – particularly Model 3s from three different years –  in winter weather conditions.

The Southern Hemisphere Proving Grounds feature a number of tracks at which car makers around the world test their vehicles including handling and braking on snow and ice, gradients, electronic traction control, and torque vectoring, and for EVs, electric motor and electrical system development.

With the Model S, it is possible that it could be in New Zealand to test the plaid powertrain, which Tesla tested out on Germany’s Nürburgring Nordschleife track in September 2019, attracting a great deal of attention as it recorded an unofficial lap faster than the then recently launched Porsche Taycan.

For the Model 3s, given the early VINs, it is unlikely that they will be testing the electric sedan with a single-piece casting but it is speculated that Tesla might have fitted the vehicles with the same heat pump system used in the Model Y, which significantly improves the efficiency of the vehicle.

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