Yesterday was a huge day for Tesla as they opened up advanced reservations on the upcoming Model 3 and later revealed some additional details about the car and I wanted to share some of my perspective on the event and the Model 3.
The Model 3 is possibly the most important car to Tesla’s future. While the Roadster, Model S and Model X were somewhat exclusive cars with their high prices and low volumes, the Model 3 is targeting the mid-market with a $35,000 starting price before incentives allowing it to reach a much wider audience.
Elon’s Master Plan continues to unfold.
The Model 3 has been part of Elon’s not-so-secret Master Plan for years and he’s firmly on track to deliver on that incredible long term vision.
While Elon originally wanted the Model 3 to be the Model E (to complete a vision of a product line with S E X models) (and he later added a Model Y) the Model E was reserved by Ford so he ended up with S3XY which fits with how our current generations are spelling/typing anyway. He still snuck in a logo that could be an E or a 3 and looks great which I think is brilliant and a cool logo.
Before the car was revealed, and without much information about the car available, reservations started on March 31, 2016 when Tesla Stores opened in countries around the world. While i’m not sure who wins the dubious prize for having waited the longest, there are some that camped out for days to be first in line at their local store to put down their refundable deposit on the Model 3.
Tesla has already stated that there are many factors that will play into how soon you will get your Model 3:
- Reservation Number
- Existing Tesla owners get preference
- Higher optioned cars will be delivered earlier
- Where you live (will start rolling out on US West Coast first)
So there was a dubious benefit to being the very first in line at the store for reservations.
Lines in the US were in the hundreds, some reported at 500. In and near major cities the lines were longer. The normal population density obviously had a big impact on that but I think the Model 3 is a much better city dweller car than the Model S and Model X which are both very large vehicles. While city charging infrastructure is still weak and difficult it will be interesting to see how the Model 3 helps Tesla penetrate cities going forward.
Reservations were simple and quick.
Like thousands of other people worldwide I got in line and participated in the event. While I own a Model S and love the car, I have 3 other ICE vehicles in my family, some at 200K miles and others heading there. ICE vehicles don’t last as long and maintenance costs climb dramatically as they age. I see the Model 3 as a viable replacement for at least one of those ICE vehicles and hope I can get them to last until the Model 3 becomes available.
I got to the Tesla store in the Natick Mall in Natick Massachusetts just before 8am and was about position 70 in the line. The line grew to about 225 by the time local reservations started at 10am.
Most of the people I met in line did not yet own a Tesla which was great to see.
I was surprised by how many non-Tesla owners were in the line. Most of the people I met didn’t own a Tesla yet. This was really encouraging to see and to hear how long people have wanted and waited for the Model 3.
Tesla did a great job of managing the lines and the people.
Tesla did a great job managing the line and processing people quickly. It took about 2 minutes per person and they had 4 stations going. By 10:30am my reservation was complete.
The line remained until about 1:30pm but then it was a simple walk in and sign up process. For our local store i’d guess they signed up about 350 people on the day of the event.
Just before the event started Tesla opened up its online reservation system for the Model 3 and people started reserving online. The servers were sluggish and required some patience but they held up.
Elon announced at the event that they already had over 115,000 reservations for the Model 3 in less than 24 hours which is really impressive for a car nobody knew much about.
Initial reservations have been very strong with a lot of pent up demand for a more affordable long range EV that looks great.
While the reservations are fully refundable (and non-transferrable) that means Elon raised $115 million dollars in 24 hours for Tesla. While this a small number for their size, every penny helps when you’re building and growing so fast.
The Model 3 Specifications
Tesla live streamed the reveal event, first covering the few additional facts they were ready to reveal about the car then showing the car itself.
- EPA range: 215 miles
- The EPA range for the Tesla Model S 60kWh is 208 miles so this is even better.
- Superchargers have been strategically placed such that you can drive the Model S 60 across the country between superchargers (but on the S60 you must be more careful) so this means whatever you can do with a S60 you will be able to do with the Model 3 which is fantastic news!
- 0 – 60: Under 6 seconds
- For reference my Model S is 5.4 seconds and this number is for the basic Model 3. I have no need for more performance than what I have now and 5.4 feels very quick. People will love this level of performance.
- Like the Model S, there will be performance options for the Model 3 to make it even faster for significantly more money.
- Seating for 5 adults
- Tesla made a point of mentioning the work they did to move the front driving position forward thanks to the empty room in the front of the car where an engine would normally go. I think there’s going to be a lot of legroom in the Model 3 — more than the competitive cars like the Audi A4 and BMW 3 series which will also be a key selling point for many.
- 5 Star Safety Rating
- Tesla led with this again and while some people think its boring we should keep in mind that many people buy big cars and SUVs for more safety. How much will those dynamics change when you have a smaller car that is super-safe? This could be a real competitive advantage for Tesla and shift buying behavior.
- Autopilot Safety Features
- All Model 3s will have Autopilot hardware and have the autopilot safety features included but, like the Model S and X, they won’t have autopilot enabled in the base price (similarly to the the Model S and X now) and there will be an extra charge (before or after delivery) for full autopilot.
- Supercharging Standard
- Elon said all Model 3s will include Supercharging Standard. I took this to mean there’s no extra charge for it, not just the ability to do it with a later surcharge.
- While I think this is great to include for everyone it may lead to some more Supercharger abuse so Tesla will have to get some better strategies around handling that.
An important point Elon made in the presentation is that the range and acceleration numbers were minimum numbers that they hope to exceed in the production version. Will they surprise us with a lot more range in the final version of the Model 3?
What surprises will Tesla offer in the production version?
The Model 3 Design – Exterior
During the presentation Elon pointed out a few key points of the design:
- The roof is one continuous pane of glass for extra headroom and a sense of openness
- Front trunk (frunk) and Trunk (hatchback) are part of the design
- The Model 3 will have more cargo capacity of any ICE car with the same external dimensions
The front end will cause a lot of discussion as it did on the S and the X.
My initial reaction to the front of the Model 3 was negative but as i’ve looked at the pictures it has grown on me. I had a similar initial reaction to the Models S and X. I got past it on the S and actually like it now, but on the X I haven’t gotten there yet. The fact that I got past the 3’s front so quickly makes me think it indicates a better design approach.
While not mentioned in the presentation, pictures showed that the Model 3 will have all wheel drive capability. Its unclear if this will be in the base model or an upgrade you have to pay for:
There will be several upgrades like AWD, Performance, and others available on the production model.
Other exterior items may also change. People reported that there were several different styles of door handles on the Model 3 prototypes they saw and this continues to be an area that Tesla is trying to figure out.
The Model 3 Design – Interior
Other than available cargo/passenger room, the interior of the Model 3 was not covered in the presentation, but photos showed a missing dashboard and a sideways mounted large screen:
Like early pictures of the Model X before it was released that showed the screen sticking up above the dash, I believe this is just a placeholder until they finalize the internal design. I seriously doubt the screen will remain as it is in the production car as it would lead to all sorts of trouble (like someone breaking it off).
Tesla also seems to have gotten over their aversions to center consoles as the Model 3 has one and they seem to have finally admitted that the armrests and included cupholders are terrible and have come up with a new design. I think much of the interior will still be refined/adjusted over the next year.
The interior will likely change quite a bit in the production model. It seems unlikely that screen will remain as it is in the current prototypes.
Elon said that even the base version of the Model 3 would be an amazing car and you wouldn’t be able to buy a better car than the Model 3 for $35,000.
The base Model 3 will be an amazing car.
Part of Elon’s presentation that I thought was critical to Tesla’s future success is the continued growth of the Supercharger, Stores and Service centers they operate. The plan on doubling all these over the next year but will need to continue to expand these rapidly to keep up with their growing customer base. There are already altercations at the busier Superchargers in California due to wait times.
Overall I was very impressed with the Model 3 launch event. The stores handled the volume well, the presentation was pretty much on time and provided some key information for potential buyers while holding back on some future details as you’d expect for a car thats not complete yet.
The Model 3 had no surprises and thats a good thing. Tesla didn’t need another over-engineered car.
I didn’t think that there is anything surprising at all in the Model 3. Its exactly what Elon told us he was going to build and the looks and style are in line with the Model S and Model X. The timing may adjust as well as some of the details but the key elements of Elon’s plan and mission remain intact and Tesla is indeed changing the automotive industry.
Here’s the full Model 3 Reveal presentation: