On March 31st, Tesla unveiled their fourth car, the Model 3* to an unprecedented response. Before the tarp was pulled off the Model 3, over 100,000 customers lined up to reserve a car, sight unseen. Tesla’s first “affordable” boasts a base price of approximately $35,000, 215 miles of range and a 0-60 MPH time of six seconds. As of this writing, more than 250,000 reservations have been taken.
If the automotive industry was waiting for the day to justify their electrification programs, March 31st was it. Everything is different from here on. A market has been established and the kid gloves are off. It’s not niche anymore.
From the start, electric cars met a lackluster response in the marketplace, with Tesla a welcome bright spot. The Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt never sold up to their expectations, the Leaf largely held back by its limited range. While the Model S drew praise for its performance, it drew equal criticism due to its status as a tax-break-enabled luxury toy for the rich. Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s long stated plans have been squarely focused on the mass-market, with the Model 3.
Charging infrastructure is a huge issue that SuperChargers will be hard pressed to solve. Luxury car owners avoid parking on the street overnight, but the Average Joe often lacks the choice. Where will apartment dwelling Model 3 owners charge up for their daily commute and who will pay for it?
I’ve been chasing the electric car story since 2008. The first video in the Electric Car playlist below was shot in Washington D.C. on the historic day when the CEOs of GM, Ford and Chrysler testified on Capitol Hill. How many folks remember that Chrysler had their own take on the Tesla Roadster? How many folks got to ride in that car? I did …
Flash forward to Spring 2016, with Chrysler almost ready to show off a plug-in hybrid version of their new Pacifica minivan and Hyundai rolling out their new IQNIC platform, with hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and fully electric variants. Gasoline prices hover just north of their lows, but Tesla steals the thunder, without bothering to display at the New York International Auto Show.
The big questions are how fast can Tesla ramp up and how long will folks hang around when they inevitably run late. Musk promises delivery starting in late 2017, but the company is notorious for missing dates. With the Chevrolet Bolt due by the end of this year, we can expect to see an aggressive marketing campaign from General Motors. How many sales will GM poach from Tesla customers? Only time will tell …
*The first of course, was simply an electrified Lotus Elise, so they thought best to ignore it.
– by Daniel Gray