Automotive

Tesla makes its big play for the mainstream with the Model 3

Tesla makes its big play for t...
The Tesla Model 3 unveiled in California
The Tesla Model 3 unveiled in California
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The Tesla Model 3 unveiled
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The Tesla Model 3 unveiled
The Tesla Model 3 is available for pre-order now
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The Tesla Model 3 is available for pre-order now
The Model 3 will have a 215-mile (346-km) range – or better – according to Tesla
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The Model 3 will have a 215-mile (346-km) range – or better – according to Tesla
Tesla Model 3 reveal
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Tesla Model 3 reveal
Tesla Model 3
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Tesla Model 3
A peek inside the Model 3
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A peek inside the Model 3
Tesla Model 3
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Tesla Model 3
A close-up of the sculpted nose
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A close-up of the sculpted nose
The Tesla Model 3 unveiled in California
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The Tesla Model 3 unveiled in California
Tesla Model 3
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Tesla Model 3
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At a special launch event in California, Tesla has finally revealed one of the most anticipated cars of the year, the Model 3. Long known as THE electric car company, Tesla is making a major play for the mass market with an electric car the masses can actually afford. To be priced a tad north of the US$33,500 average US light vehicle price and with a 215-mile (346-km) range, will the Model 3 be the tipping point for the mass acceptance of electric cars?

After a brief introduction by Tesla design chief Franz von Holzhausen, Elon Musk took the stage and jumped right in with a look at why Tesla does what it does and why it believes electric driving is the future (to combat increased CO2 levels, higher temperatures, toxic gas emissions, etc etc).

Of course, Tesla can only really have a meaningful impact on those issues if it moves away from its role as electric car boutique and starts selling a lot of cars. And that brings us to the star of the evening.

The Tesla Model 3 unveiled
The Tesla Model 3 unveiled

After years of speculation, rendered images and sound bites, the Model 3 is finally here, or ... kind of here. It won't actually go into production for at least a year and half, but at least we now have an idea of what to expect when it does arrive. The Model 3 exceeds expectations of a 200-mile range with promises of an EPA-rated 215 miles (346 km), a very robust range as far as mainstream EVs go and slightly more than the "over 200 miles (322 km)" of the $37,500 Chevy Bolt.

Obviously the entry level model was never going to be as zippy as the more expensive, more powerful Model S, but Tesla does promise a sub-six-second 0-60 mph (96.5 km/h).

"At Tesla, we don't make slow cars," Musk said on stage. "Of course there will be versions of the Model 3 that go much faster."

Musk also said that the estimates given tonight are minimum numbers that Tesla hopes to exceed.

Tesla claims that the five-seat Model 3 is the roomiest car of its size. The front seats have been pushed forward to increase rear legroom, while the rear half of the roof is built out of glass. We're not sure how badly that will affect visibility, but it keeps headroom comfortable while maintaining a sporty profile. Musk says the car can fit a seven-foot-surfboard inside.

Other tidbits from tonight's event include the promise of five-star safety in every category, standard autopilot hardware with standard safety features, standard Supercharging to help extend driving versatility and quell range anxiety, and front and rear trunks.

While the Model 3 plays in the Chevy Bolt's ballpark in terms of price and range, it has something that the Bolt doesn't: Tesla's electric car pedigree and sex appeal. The Bolt is a chunky hatchback no prettier than the Toyota Prius or Nissan Leaf, but the Model 3 follows the Model S as a sleek, coupe-like sedan. Its high, stretched roof flashes hints of "hatchback," but the gently-spoilered trunk is just defined enough to give it that four-door coupe presence.

Up front, the short nose (remember those press-forward front seats) is sculpted neatly above a blank-canvas front fascia and between a set of sharp, distinctive headlamps. The car's fenders are much more sharply defined than the Model S.

It's not quite as seamless as the Model S, but its looks are appealing enough to attract buyers for more than just its eco and fuel-saving attributes.

Tesla reaffirmed the Model 3's base price of $35,000 tonight and reservations opened up today ($1,000, refundable), first at Tesla dealers, and later online. Tesla's social media channels were abuzz throughout the day with photos and videos of long lines and happy customers, and throughout the week with stories of folks lining up and camping out. Musk said at the reveal event that reservations have already surpassed 115,000, which exceeds the total number of Teslas on the road as of last month (107,000).

Tesla plans to begin Model 3 production in late 2017 and says that deliveries will be staggered, starting in the US West and moving eastward before jumping overseas to foreign markets like Europe and the Asia-Pacific.

So, take a good, hard look at the Model 3 and its spec sheet and let us know: Will this car make you go (or stay) electric, or will you still stick to a gas, diesel or hybrid powertrain? And will the Model 3 contribute to Tesla's rise or prove more of a disruption?

If tonight's reveal leaves you with lingering questions, they'll be answered in due time. "Tomorrow is Part 1 of the Model 3 unveil," Musk tweeted on Wednesday. "Part 2, which takes things to another level, will be closer to production."

Source: Tesla

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23 comments
agarsum
Hats off to Elon Musk for building such a compelling affordable car. Just booked 2 of them. Looking forward to getting them.
jade_goat
Very nice car!
There's no doubt at all that this will be the car that makes electric cars "mainstream". The price is right and the range is pretty good too.
Thank goodness that at least Tesla knows how to make a good-looking electric car - not an ugly three-wheeled monstrosity like some of its competitors want to foist on us.
Martin Winlow
CEOs of all the big auto-makers (including GM) must be choking on their cornflakes this morning waking up to the news... 115k reservations (and US$115m cash) in less than 24 hours. Surely this is utterly unprecedented in the history of car making?
As for the look of it, "That'll do nicely, sir!" Heck, I've got a year old S and I got myself up at 0430 this morning to reserve a 3. By the time the 3 arrives in the UK, it'll be a straight swap for a new 3 (and it'll fit in my garage!).
Well done Mr Musk and Tesla!! MW
VincentWolf
My order is in and I will be ordering an upgraded version that sports AWD and a longer range--rumored to be 320 mile in the model 366D with 0 to 60 in about 4.5 seconds. That's more than fast enough for my wife!
Winterbiker
A beautiful looking car. It may be a tipping point for electrics. Here is a business opportunity for some enterprising young person or maybe Tesla will take it on. For range extension, I see a rental business - based out of conventional gas stations or car rental companies. A small trailer containing a battery that will give you another 300 km of range. For normal operation you would not want the trailer, but for long distance travel it would make sense. So if you are going on a long trip go to a rental station and get a battery. When your rented trailer runs out of juice - pull into another rental place and trade or just return it. Tesla should install a plug adaptor near the spot where a trailer hitch would go. The trailer system could/should work with other electric cars too.
Island Architect
There is something of a mutual admiration society between Franz and Bob Lutz. Ever since Franz designed the Saturn Sky and the Pontiac Solstice for Bob at GM there has remained a deep admiration.
I'd send a picture of their meeting at the Eye's on Design event at the NAIAS, It is wonderful.
There is a stretched image of the red one. Please stop distorting the true perspective. There is nothing wrong with the real stubbyness.
guzmanchinky
Yes! Amazing car, amazing tech. How did the others (especially Benz, Audi, BMW) get so caught sleeping at the wheel? Self driving cars with the acceleration of supercars. The only sad thing is if you read the comments on the mainstream news articles. So many ignorant people out there crowing about how oil makes America great and how roads will fall apart from the lack of taxes. Such shortsightedness it's painful to see. Go Tesla.
ikarus342000
Thank you for a great design Mr, Holzhauser avoiding an over designed shape. I wish you all the success you deserve Mr. Musk. A great design.
pigeoneer
Will there be sufficient charging stations in populous areas? Will the home installation be included in the purchase for budget minded retirees? Finally, the federal government should create a comprehensive power tax relief policy for solar, battery and alternative power conversion for consumers.
mediabeing
I dearly hope this isn't the absolute finalized look of the car to be offered at the end of next year. It looks like it's not fully finished. The front, where a grill would normally be, looks unfinished like an amusement park ride for kiddies. If nothing else, that part without the grill should be more aerodynamic/streamlined.