The keys to the first Tesla Model 3 cars have been handed over to their owners. The electric car manufacturer has made it clear that it wants to conquer the mass market with a relatively inexpensive car. And the first reactions are full of high praise. John Dyer reports from Boston.
As he unveiled Tesla’s new Model 3 sedan, CEO Elon Musk predicted that he and his employees would be working hard in the near future.
“Frankly, we’re going to be in production hell,” he told Tesla employees last month during a rollout of the company’s first cars designed for a mass market. “For at least six months, maybe longer.”
Based on reviews of the relatively inexpensively priced USD 35,0000 Model 3 sedan, Musk might be right.
“I’ve driven pretty much every other all-electric car you can buy, and I can safely say that the Model 3 has no competition,” wrote Business Insider.
“There isn’t anybody who’s going to sit in the driver’s seat of this car and not want it, if only briefly. The Model 3 stokes immediate desire, and the lust lingers.”
The tone of that praise occurred elsewhere.
“I spent three minutes inside Tesla’s Model 3 – and I’m still thinking about it a day later,” wrote the Washington Post.
Motor Trend, a magazine popular among car buffs, was fawning. “It is the most important vehicle of the century,” the magazine wrote.
“Driving Tesla’s Model 3 changes everything,” opined Bloomberg.
Simple, clean design
Reviewers were less positive about the Model 3’s new-fangled dashboard controls, but noted that the Silicon Valley company can upload new apps and other features that could theoretically change the car, including giving it greater self-driving capabilities.
Musk addressed those concerns during the rollout in remarks that evoked late Apple founder Steve Jobs’ comments when he unveiled the game-changing iPhone around a decade ago.
“We aimed for a very simple, clean design, because in the future – really, the future being now – the cars will be increasingly autonomous,” said Musk on Friday.
“So you won’t really need to look at an instrument panel all that often. You’ll be able to do whatever you want: You’ll be able to watch a movie, talk to friends, go to sleep.”
Still too few charging stations
The still-relatively sparse network of Tesla charging stations also received negative attention. But Tesla is now expanding its charging network throughout the United States to power and service the cars.
Premium features on the Model 3s have also generated press. Customers who want any colour other than black must pay an extra USD 1,000, for example.
But focusing on those details ignores the bigger picture, according to Tesla boosters.
Tesla’s other two offerings, the Model S and Model X, are luxury cars that can cost between USD 68,000 and more than USD 82,000.
“If you’ve lusted after that expensive Model S, you’ll likely be satisfied with the Model 3 too,” gushed Wired, a technology magazine widely read in Silicon Valley and Wall Street.
The reviews were complimentary about the car’s power and handling, too. The Model 3 sports five seats, a 350-kilometre range and a maximum speed of 210 kilometres per hour like its more expensive counterparts. Pricier versions have longer ranges.
“The car sprints like an Olympic 100-metre champion,” wrote USA Today, the biggest-circulation newspaper in the US.
The Model 3 is Tesla’s play at appealing to a mass market rather than a niche audience while supporting the wider move towards electric vehicles around the world.
Chinese consumers are buying up electric cars, while France and Britain recently enacted laws that would ban gas and diesel-driven cars in 2040. Volvo also plans to phase out internal combustion engines in the near future.
Detroit-based car companies have not generated so much buzz about a new a car in memory.
Around 500,000 buyers put down USD 1,000 deposits earlier this year to buy the car, an unprecedented measure of the car’s popularity. Musk can’t even satisfy that demand until 2019. He plans on producing 400,000 Model 3s next year.
“I have to hand it to Tesla, and the leadership in particular, for being able to create the hype and use public market equity as a source for generating a whole new narrative about cars,” said Columbia University Business and Engineering Professor R. A. Farrokhnia.