After months of waiting and gigafactories-worth of speculation, Tesla finally reveals its third model, the Model 3 today.
Prior to the unveiling, scheduled for 8:30 PM Pacific time, we don't know what the car actually looks like. The original image we posted, which now has been replaced with this official photo, was just one of many speculative attempts to predict what the $35,000 electric car could look like, essentially a scaled down version of the Model S, Tesla's first family-class sedan; and it came pretty darn close to the real thing it turns out.
According to company CEO Elon Musk, the Model 3 will have approximately the same interior volume as the Audi A4, a five-seater and one of several entry level luxury cars his 200-mile range, all-electric model will be going head-to-head against in the market place. We're told that the batteries will be configured differently to help bring down the cost; and it's assumed that buyers, who now can place a $1000US deposit as of today for a late 2017 delivery, can upgrade the lithium-ion pack for more range.
Sometime back, Musk also suggested that the car will likely use more steel in the vehicle than weight-saving aluminum to help reduce costs even further. Exactly how much of cheaper steel versus more expensive aluminum will be used, we'll learn later.
We can assume that whatever the car looks like, it will be stylish and will have an emphasis not only on performance but also on safety, carrying on one of Tesla's signature hallmarks. When the Model X crossover SUV was revealed in 2015, Musk touted the car's air filtration system that would make passengers safe even during a chemical warfare attack. Given the level of pollution in many of the world's cities, where the World Health Organization estimates 7 million people die prematurely from toxic air every year, those fortunate enough to be in the Model X probably appreciate that capability. This and other options, including autonomous driving will, it is speculated, will be available upgrades, driving the final cost of the car closer to $50,000 before any applicable federal and state incentives.
So a car for the "masses" it may not be, but it certainly puts the EV-smile within the range of many more upper-middle class Americans, who will be the first to get their cars, starting with buyers in California sometime in late 2017 or early 2018. As the company ramps up production, deliveries will steadily move eastward, and then overseas to Europe and Asia Pacific regions, where Musk has indicated Tesla may build a factory to meet Model 3 demand there.
And speaking of ordering the Model 3, the first person to place an order for the car was a gentleman in Australia who waited two days outside the Tesla showroom in Sydney to be first in line. Orders can now be placed on the Tesla.com web site.
US buyers can still take advantage of the $7,500 federal tax credit until company sales reach 200,000 units cumulatively. At that point the credit rapidly phases out.
With respect to Tesla's Nevada "Gigafactory," reports have surfaced that the plant will be built out in longer stages than originally thought, possibly by as much as three years . Tesla responded, naturally, saying that construction is actually ahead of schedule and that the plant began "battery pack production in October, 2015, over a year ahead of schedule."
Finally, one more thing we do know is that while Elon Musk wanted to call it the Model E, so that the company lineup would spell "SEX", Ford had previously trademarked Model E and wouldn't relinquish it. Musk and company neatly got around that by using the stylized "E" in the company name, three horizontal bars, effectively saying exactly the same thing.
As to the question of ordering the car, for the time being, it can be done at Tesla showrooms and online, but we're hearing reports that the company is considering a legal offensive at the federal level to allow it the right to sell its cars directly in any state it wishes, despite current bans in six states, which represent 18% of the US car market . There also were suggestions last year that Tesla may even be considering franchise dealerships. If the Model 3 is as successful as many think it will be, Musk and company may need to partner with local businessmen to provide the level of service a $35,000 car represents, as opposed to the luxury concierge-level of service Model S and Model X owners expect.
We'll update this page as more information about the Model 3 becomes known.
First Published: 2016-03-31
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