It’s hard to overestimate the importance of the Tesla Model 3 (although the media has been doing its best). There’s no question that it’s a momentous motorcar on (at least) three levels. First, Model 3’s success is widely assumed to be an existential issue for the company – if it fails to deliver on its promise, or even if it delivers too slowly, TSLA stock will take a tumble (to say the least).
Second, the head-turning new EV’s market debut is, or should be, a wake-up call for other automakers – Model 3 seems certain to start stealing customers from luxury brands in the small sedan segment, as Model S has done in the large luxury market. And finally, many see the advent of a long-range, mass-market EV as a day of reckoning for oil-based transportation.
Model 3, together with the Chevy Bolt and the upcoming second-generation Nissan LEAF, delivers the range/price combination that has long been considered the tipping point for EVs. If the 200-mile/$35k sweet spot is truly the Holy Grail that the pundits have been hailing, then the transition from ICE vehicles should now be unstoppable (or to put it another way, if consumers don’t start buying EVs now, they never will).
A promise kept
Elon Musk has been talking about Tesla’s third-generation vehicle since the founding of the company, but until it was well into development, he (perhaps wisely) didn’t offer any details. He stated several times that it would have a range of at least 200 miles, would sell for around half the price of Model S, and would hit the market by 2017. He also promised that it would not suck. And that was about it. As far as styling, features, and so forth, the company issued no word until the March 2016 unveiling.