Since the second row of Model X has gained so much discussion and notoriety since the silent launch of Model X Signature ordering, I decided to take a look at how the seats have evolved since the original unveiling of Model X - and where they might be headed in the future and why. 2012 - Unveiling the individual rails In the end, the base of the second row of Model X has conceptually remained the same since its original unveiling in the 2012 prototype. It consists of three independently moving seats standing on single pedestal each, running on under-floor rails. This has always been the case and changed, visually, remarkably little in three years. Perhaps this should not be too surprising, considering Elon Musk in 2012 described any changes to the Model X in production as subtle: Tesla Model X Launch Elon Musk Interview - YouTube More interestingly, in the same interview Elon Musk (at 1:40) is asked about the second row seats and will they be produced like that. Here is Elon's answer, paraphrasing a little: "I generally hate car shows where they show stuff and it doesn't actually come to reality. All the main stuff I've talked about is going to come to fruition, the falcon wing doors, the dual-motor four-wheel drive [...] that one [the seats] we are hoping will reach production because pretty cool. It is a single column - and I like to think that it is just such a clean design. I mean, you can sort of see through the whole car there [under the seats]. And you don't have rails and all sorts of crud in your way. And it's kind of like just a clean flat floor. So if it is not like that, it is going to be something that still allows for a clean, flat floor." Clearly Tesla was hoping the pedestals would make it into production, but was there already a hint of the magnitude of the task ahead in the uncertainness? In any case, already from this early stage, the seat backs hosted the seat belts, since due to the falcon wings no attachment to the C pillar would be feasible. In 2012 the seat backs of the second row were separate from the base of the seat and could recline independently it seems. Of course, in 2012 Tesla also showed this picture - noting how the second row would fold flat: 2013 - The white prototype with black second row Next time the second row makes an appearance in the 2013 prototype of Model X with a more glossy design, the improved pedestals very reminiscent of the launch version materials by now and numerous controls clearly visible - for individual moving of the seats and for the separate adjustment of the seat backs. Also, the headrests were adjustable. The seats remain standing on single pedestals with under-floor rails, just like in 2012 - and just like in 2015. Tesla still used this white prototype in shows for two years or so until it was retired in 2015. A video from the 2013 Detroit Auto Shows displays this prototype in detail and also confirms how the seats moved individually already in these early prototypes: 2014 Tesla Model X - Exterior and Interior Walkaround - 2013 Detroit Auto Show - YouTube 2014 - Leaked CAD, promise of folding flat re-iterated Last year brought us no new public prototypes, but in September 2014 on TMC an alleged Tesla CAD was published - and quickly pulled on request by Tesla - that according to people familiar with the matter showed the second row, now in a design very close to the final seen in 2015 - e.g. without adjustable headrests. However, the base of the seats seen in the CAD apparently is of a different, more beefier side support design than is now expected to be shipping, showing some changes in this area still in the making. Apparently the CAD is inconclusive on whether or not this particular design was folding or fixed. Right before that September leak, Tesla themselves made a comment on the matter of folding the second row, by re-iterating in a June 2014 update to Model X reservation holders that the second row would fold flat: Later in the year repeated his comments that Tesla would be a company shipping better products than show cars and showing clear disrespect towards companies who operate differently: This notion is repeated in Tesla's November 2014 update email to Model X reservation holders where Tesla claims every element of Model X, interior specifically mentioned, lives up to or surpasses the prototype. In a nod to the difficulty of building the seat design, though, in last quarter 2014 conference call Elon Musk notes the second row seats are - together with the falcon wing doors - "driving" the schedule of the car and an adventurous hurdle they would like to avoid with Model 3. Joel has posted a more detailed timeline of Tesla's social media comments for those particularly interested. 2015 - The year of mules, Eds and the Design Studio Year 2015 begins with Elon Musk calling the Model X second row as pieces of sculptural beauty. All sorts of speculation erupts from this, but in hindsight it seems clear he was mostly talking about the pedestals and under-floor rails - while the seats themselves seem rather ordinary. Of course, it needs to be noted we have not seen the full unveil yet, so things may change and information (and thus opinion) may expand on this. Also during the early and spring of 2015 we begin seeing a multitude of Model X mules, general progress of which is summarized in another thread. However, we mostly see the exterior. In June, though, we get a glimpse of the updated falcon wings and the second row inside a garage. Unfortunately, not much can be made out of the second row in that image, as it is wrapped in plastic. In July the pseudonum Eds appears on TMC and makes claims of ongoing design changes in the Model X including door opening mechanism to change from hydraulic to electric (that indeed may be present when comparing later 2015 Model X Design Studio images and earlier images for hinge mechanism changes). Eds further claimed supplier issues and early cars being severely compromised in numerous areas. Eds said if he/she were to buy a Model X, would wait until mid to late 2016 to do so. While later recating his/her location, originally Eds claimed as his/her location Newark, CA. Notably, Tesla's contractor Futuris is in Newark... and indeed, Futuris won the Model X seat contract in 2014. Could Eds' claims be connected to the seats? He/she makes no direct allegation on that. In August, Elon Musk's conference call comments make press as struggles with SUV’s artsy middle seat. Musk re-iterates his earlier comment on the seats being a sculptural piece of art, but also notes issues: "It’s an amazing seat, a sculptural work of art, but a very tricky thing to get right." He goes on to say some components could be critical path items, not excluding the seats as a possibility. In September, 2015 the Model X Design Studio opens for a limited audience and through there - and from subsequent Tesla representative comments - we learn the second row doesn't fold as previously stated and from its design the separately reclining (and folding) back seems to be removed and in its place the whole seat merely tilts. Also the adjustable headrests are missing. The front seats of Model X have gained ventilation, it is unconfirmed if the second row might have it too. Further questions to Tesla do seem to confirm the seats won't fold and that this would apply to both Signature and at least initial Production models and that the second row would not be removable. At this time no information is available whether or not this is planned to change in the future. 2016 and beyond I think it is fairly obvious Tesla wanted to offer a folding second row on the Model X. Most of their notable competition, like all the major German SUV makers in the same size class, have folding second row seats. All Tesla prototype second rows seen had folding seats and Tesla kept making the point from 2012 through to at least 2014. It is hard to claim these seats are superior to the reclining, folding, headrest adjustable prototype seats - yet Tesla used to claim they'd always do better than prototype. It is possible crash safety and making the self-imposed final deadline of shipping in Q3/2015 made them reconsider - the single-pedestal seats with integrated seat belts may be subject to quite significant forces in crash testing and seems like a plausible problem scenario. The question, then, remains - will Tesla launch a folding second row later in production? Eds noted the dates middle to late 2016, were they connected to seating? That would be speculating. We don't know. Tesla is expected to start shipping the Model X - to Founders first - on September 29th. Perhaps we will learn more after that date.