Tesla Backpedals on Yoke Steering

·4 min read
2023 tesla model s
Tesla Backpedals on Yoke SteeringTesla
  • Tesla makes the yoke steering a $250 option in the Model S and Model X, after offering it as standard equipment.

  • Earlier this year the automaker reintroduced the round steering wheel as a $700 option in its two older models.

  • The EV maker is expected to offer an evolution of the yoke steering in the Cybertruck, which is expected to arrive later this year at the earliest.

Tesla's introduction of yoke-shaped steering in the updated Model S in 2021 prompted no shortage of reactions from drivers and industry observers alike, with some predicting an experience that could require a steep learning curve. The EV maker, for its part, touted greater instrument panel visibility as one of the design's advantages.

Shortly thereafter the yoke made its way into the updated Tesla Model X as well, once again receiving a mix of reactions and plenty of YouTube videos demonstrating the purported ease of its operation or lack thereof, depending on what video you happened to be watching.

But Tesla's two older models have accounted for a tiny percentage of its annual deliveries, collectively amounting to about 5% of its total production for several of the past quarters.

The reaction of all Tesla drivers was difficult to gauge statistically, despite the numerous YouTube videos, as it was a standard item in a car they had bought sight unseen, and therefore had not tried beforehand in many cases.

However, a wave of complaints regarding the durability of materials in the yoke was also noticed on Tesla forums once the updated Tesla models began arriving in numbers, with users reporting the outer surface of the yoke degrading over a period of months due to use.

But in no time at all, a number of other automakers also started offering yoke-shaped steering systems in concept and production cars, most notably Lexus.

Quietly, earlier this year Tesla also made the traditional round steering wheel an option that could be installed on an aftersales basis at a Tesla service center, at a price of $700. Demand was brisk early on, leading the round steering wheels to quickly sell out.

In the process, Tesla had achieved a truly rare feat in the automotive industry—making some buyers pay $700 for a round steering wheel as an option.

Tesla was also rumored to be working on an improved version of the yoke with different materials, due later in 2023, but has not made any announcements regarding the possibility. Just what the revised version could look like was glimpsed briefly in the latest prototype of the Cybertruck—a vehicle still promised with the yoke at least as an option—during Tesla's latest Investor Day.

2023 tesla model s
The yoke is still featured on the ordering page of the Model S, but one other change to the car during the 2021 update has received far less attention, with Tesla reworking the gear selection process. "Tap the brake and Model S automatically selects the correct direction to start your trip."Tesla

Now, Tesla appears to be backpedaling further on the whole idea of yoke-shaped steering, and has now made the yoke a $250 option in the Tesla Model S and X, rather than a standard item.

But the automaker has not indicated whether the Cybertruck will offer a round steering as a standard item, or whether it will feature a new version of the yoke as standard. Yet another possibility looms: Both will be standard items, but buyers will be able to choose either at no extra cost.

But Tesla's foray into unconventional steering setups has continued to gloss over one other aspect of usability that has made the F1-style yoke an appealing idea to some drivers in the first place: a variable steering ratio. Unlike Toyota and Lexus, Tesla has not developed a steer-by-wire system for the yoke, so it has required the same number of turns as the round version, prompting some complaints about usability at low speeds. And it does not appear that such a system will appear by the time the Cybertruck goes on sale.

The future of Tesla's yoke, at the moment, perhaps hangs in the balance as it flirts with becoming a rarely chosen and rarely seen option. But reinventing the wheel has certainly prompted enough imitators to prevent the concept from being dismissed outright.

Should Tesla continue to offer the yoke as a standard item or an option, or is this an upgrade that few have asked for? Let us know what you think.