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Analysis: Evolution of Model X second row 2012 - 2015

AnxietyRanger

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Aug 22, 2014
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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.

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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:

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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

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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:

attachment.php?attachmentid=94511&d=1442506228.png


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:

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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.

attachment.php?attachmentid=83952&d=1434207570.jpg


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.

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DaveT

Searcher of green pastures
Nov 15, 2012
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I think people are jumping the gun here with the second row seats. We need more info, which I think we'll get from Tesla soon. I believe that Tesla and Elon think that they've implemented the second seats in the best manner possible, and perhaps the forward tilting of the seats is actually more impressive and convenient than most people realize. For one, it allows wide access to the third row. The question is of course how much cargo space is there when then forward seats are leaned forward, but I think most will be pleasantly surprised that it's comparable to it's competitors. Just my two cents. But let's wait for the actually Model X to ship before getting all gloom and doom. I think it's going to be better than most expect, just like the S surpassed most expectations.
 

SW2Fiddler

We Are Cognitive Dissidents
Mar 19, 2014
2,362
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Houston TX
The Design Studio rendering shows a "slot" or "track" in the pedestal, but omits the brace that is shown traveling up and down in the slot in another Tesla graphic. The brace looks to be a major stabilizing component in "seating mode." The strut's lower end is at lowest position in the slot. (1st pic)

What interests me is what can you then make the whole seat do, even if it is non-folding, when that strut moves up in the slot? (2nd pic)
The seat back isn't too long to become a floor if each whole seat can "roll forward" (perhaps with some help from a moving pedestal pillar).

ImageUploadedByTapatalk1442790865.333201.jpg


ImageUploadedByTapatalk1442790886.100513.jpg


I believe that Tesla and Elon think that they've implemented the second seats in the best manner possible, and perhaps the forward tilting of the seats is actually more impressive and convenient than most people realize. For one, it allows wide access to the third row.

Yeah. Accessing the 3rd row could just be a simple Slide-Forward of the 2nd.
For big cargo TARDIS Mode, slide 2nd row back and "prostrate" (tumble?) forward, fold flat the 3rd, and bring on the Queen mattresses! (Tumble one seat only for those omnipresent skis.)
 
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AnxietyRanger

Well-Known Member
Aug 22, 2014
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SW2Fiddler: Interesting points, where does that image come from? Does the Model X Signature have that strut or maybe they have omitted it or made it fixed?

Anyway, another point related to folding seats are those adjustable headrests. It indeed seems like Model X Signature does have third-row adjustable or at least foldable headrests, which is probably necessary for folding those seats. Second row's adjustable/folding headrest in the prototypes was probably related to second row folding too... and notably this headrest flexibility is missing from the non-folding second row in Model X Signature, where the headrests seem fixed.

In addition to safety, one potential issue with the second row might have merely been getting the reliability of this entire elaborate setup to a required level?
 

SW2Fiddler

We Are Cognitive Dissidents
Mar 19, 2014
2,362
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Houston TX
SW2Fiddler: Interesting points, where does that image come from? Does the Model X Signature have that strut or maybe they have omitted it or made it fixed?
The Design Studio rendering doesn't give us that information. It's a custom rendering (and all it has to do is assist with leather-color decisions), so it contains only what TM is ready for us to see... No one has freaked out about the "transparent right rear door" after all.
The vague drawing I attached, alas I don't know the exact date it came out... It was part of a presentation I believe.

The Design Studio rendering also tells us naught of the 2nd row headrests' capability of motion. I could imagine them pivoting to contact the floor in the big-cargo scenario. Or slip up and down like in the Black-Seats prototype, eh? All we can see (now) is they are not like the front row's headrests.
 
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DaveT

Searcher of green pastures
Nov 15, 2012
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Yeah. Accessing the 3rd row could just be a simple Slide-Forward of the 2nd.
For big cargo TARDIS Mode, slide 2row back and "prostrate" (tumble?) forward, fold flat the 3rd, and bring on the Queen mattresses! (Tumble one seat only for those omnipresent skis.)

+1. All with electric controls.
 

AnxietyRanger

Well-Known Member
Aug 22, 2014
9,408
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The Design Studio rendering doesn't give us that information. It's a custom rendering (and all it has to do is assist with leather-color decisions), so it contains only what TM is ready for us to see... No one has freaked out about the "transparent right rear door" after all.
The vague drawing I attached, alas I don't know the exact date it came out... It was part of a presentation I believe.

The Design Studio rendering also tells us naught of the 2nd row headrests' capability of motion. I could imagine them pivoting to contact the floor in the big-cargo scenario. Or slip up and down like in the Black-Seats prototype, eh? All we can see (now) is they are not like the front row's headrests.

I have to disagree at least to the extent that the renderings on Design Studio do distinctly make the 1st and 2nd row headrests seem fixed and the 3rd row headrest seem potentially folding.

I agree renders may be inaccurate, of course, but it seems like they are at least following a certain logic in this case and thus seem plausible.

model_x_headrests.jpg
 

Troy

Active Member
Aug 24, 2015
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The video from the Model X Reveal Event on 16th Feb 2012 shows what the original plan was. Watch from 20:11 to 20:37 here. There is also this amateur video that has one more sentence about long surf boards.

I guess for 3 years and 7 months they tried to do what the original plan was but it just didn't work with all the crash test requirements etc. I wouldn't expect folding seats any time soon. Considering how much time has already passed, it is obvious that it wasn't something easy to do.
 

hpham007

Banned
Jul 17, 2015
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I have to disagree at least to the extent that the renderings on Design Studio do distinctly make the 1st and 2nd row headrests seem fixed and the 3rd row headrest seem potentially folding.

I agree renders may be inaccurate, of course, but it seems like they are at least following a certain logic in this case and thus seem plausible.

View attachment 94953

- - - Updated - - -

Hmm. All the child car seats I've messed with has a strap in the back that goes under/through the headrest and hooks to a bar in the back of the seat. If the headrests are truly fixed, I wonder how that is going to work?

:smile:
 

bonnie

I play a nice person on twitter.
Feb 6, 2011
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Hmm. All the child car seats I've messed with has a strap in the back that goes under/through the headrest and hooks to a bar in the back of the seat. If the headrests are truly fixed, I wonder how that is going to work?

:smile:

Odd. All the ones I've used have a seatbelt harness that threads thru. I'm not familiar with the kind you're talking about.
 

MX458Dave

Member
Apr 3, 2013
141
96
Boulder
My kids' car seats also have the back strap stabilizer that goes back under the headrest and attaches to the center anchor behind the seats.

Thanks for for the great summary post. Crazy story, whatever the final outcome.
 

ohmman

Plaid-ish Moderator
Feb 13, 2014
10,087
18,309
North Bay, CA
Odd. All the ones I've used have a seatbelt harness that threads thru. I'm not familiar with the kind you're talking about.

Likewise. And I'm nearly out of that phase - so, so thankfully. But yeah, I don't see it being an issue.

Also want to voice my thanks to AR for another well constructed summary. As far as drama, there are only one or two posts in this thread causing drama. Hopefully it can stay that way.

[edit: were one or two posts. Thanks, mods!!]
 

NigelM

Recovering Member
Apr 3, 2011
13,386
556
Northern Virginia
Hmm. All the child car seats I've messed with has a strap in the back that goes under/through the headrest and hooks to a bar in the back of the seat. If the headrests are truly fixed, I wonder how that is going to work?

Exactly the same as it does on Model S; top anchor can go over the headrest. No problem.
 

SeminoleFSU

Voluntaryist
Apr 5, 2013
1,459
359
Atlanta, GA
I guess for 3 years and 7 months they tried to do what the original plan was but it just didn't work with all the crash test requirements etc. I wouldn't expect folding seats any time soon. Considering how much time has already passed, it is obvious that it wasn't something easy to do.
I guess for 3yrs and 7 months they couldn't borrow or repeat what other SUV/CUV manufacturers have done for decades? Sorry. Couldn't help myself. I'm starting to wonder of Elons quest for a flat and open floor made the fold away/flat style 2nd row too difficult. I can't imagine the falcon wing doors being the culprit because having the belt in the folding seat has been done plenty of times by several different brands
 

EchoDelta

Supporting Member
Mar 5, 2012
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RootedNW.org, Seattle, Planet Earth
Odd. All the ones I've used have a seatbelt harness that threads thru. I'm not familiar with the kind you're talking about.

It's common top anchor for Latch systems. They usually go to a hook in the back of the backrest. I'm always surprised some models come with yards of extra belt.

By the way, off topic: we are super happy with our Clek Foonf and think it would look at home in both clear and and dark MX interiors
 

BerTX

Supporting Member
May 2, 2014
3,505
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Texas/Washington
I guess for 3yrs and 7 months they couldn't borrow or repeat what other SUV/CUV manufacturers have done for decades? Sorry. Couldn't help myself. I'm starting to wonder of Elons quest for a flat and open floor made the fold away/flat style 2nd row too difficult. I can't imagine the falcon wing doors being the culprit because having the belt in the folding seat has been done plenty of times by several different brands

People keep saying there are examples of current vehicles sold in the US with detached seats (i.e., the seat backs are not connected to the frame) that fold and all have integrated belts. I always ask them to name the examples, but get crickets.
 

AnxietyRanger

Well-Known Member
Aug 22, 2014
9,408
7,402
EU
It's common top anchor for Latch systems. They usually go to a hook in the back of the backrest. I'm always surprised some models come with yards of extra belt.

By the way, off topic: we are super happy with our Clek Foonf and think it would look at home in both clear and and dark MX interiors

And LATCH is basically known as ISOFIX in Europe.

General comment to thread:

In the system some seats can be merely attached to two metal hooks on the base of the seat (where the seat back and the part you sit on meet). Other seats require or recommend connecting to a third point behind the seat as well, which is what people are talking about in this thread.

- - - Updated - - -

AR - your history left out the January 1, 2013 patent for the vehicle seat mount:

USD673393.pdf

The video from the Model X Reveal Event on 16th Feb 2012 shows what the original plan was. Watch from 20:11 to 20:37 here. There is also this amateur video that has one more sentence about long surf boards.

Good additions, thank you.

- - - Updated - - -

Exactly the same as it does on Model S; top anchor can go over the headrest. No problem.

Agreed, the fixed headrests are not an issue - assuming the seats otherwise have LATCH/ISOFIX, which I guess they do like Model S.
 

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