Yes, the Tesla Model 3 is out, introduced — with his usual aplomb and casual disdain for East Coast time differences — in California by Elon Musk himself. If you love Models S and X, you’ll love the 3. (Collect ‘em all and you’ll have the full S3X set.)
The salient details: zero to 60 in less than 6 seconds (even in the base car), at least 215 miles on a charge. Supercharging capability and Autopilot, again in every car. The $35,000 price is something like wish fulfillment. You’d have to find a stripped car and get the full $7,500 federal income tax credit. That’s a tall order, considering the car isn’t going to be on sale until late next year, and Tesla may be close to reaching its limit on federal credits by then. (Wired does a good job of explaining how the credits work.) But a $42,500 Model 3 is still going to sell well, and there are state rebates that will ease the sting.
The Tesla Model 3 boasts a single pane of glass from windshield to back window. (Photo: Automotive Rhythms/flickr)
So many people were watching the unveil video that it was very glitchy from where I sat. Musk called it “the final step in the master plan,” and “happening because of you,” meaning the loyal Tesla fans in the audience who were cheering everything he said. I liked what Edmunds.com analyst Jessica Caldwell had to say:
This has to be a first for the automotive industry: lines of people waiting to place an order for a car that won't be available for over a year. This is the type of buzz that you see with Star Wars movies or new iPhones or even cronuts. And it's not just in Silicon Valley or LA; this is a phenomenon we're seeing across the country. If there's ever been any evidence that Tesla is primed to make the leap to mainstream car buyers, this is it. To be a full-fledged car company Tesla needs build volume and it needs to do it sooner rather than later. We may look back at today as a truly landmark moment for Tesla.
Musk assured his awed audience that he has the capacity at the plant in Fremont to produce the Model 3 in high volumes if demand warrants. And I think it will. Yes, the Chevrolet Bolt has roughly the same specs, and will be out first, but adding a Tesla to the fleet for Taurus money is going to be a mighty big draw.
Now to the car. Yes, it looks like a shrunken Model S, strikingly similar to some of the Photoshop guesses that appeared on the Internet. It has a cool single piece of glass from windshield to back window — an extension of a Model S idea. The touchscreen is Model S-inspired, too, though slightly smaller — and very freestanding in the prototypes displayed in Hawthorne.
Journalists got short rides (not drives), and they agree the Model 3 is a) spacious, considering its size; and b) fast — it’s a Tesla, isn’t it? A seven-foot surfboard fits inside it, Musk said.
“So what do you think?” Musk asked the faithful. “Do you like it?” The responding roar was pretty loud. I liked it, too, with one caveat. The car is electric, which means no radiator and thus no need for a “grille.” The S has the suggestion of one, but the E does not, and after 100 years of internal combustion it just looks “wrong” to see that flat expanse of painted metal up there. But I’m sure I’ll get used to it as the Model 3 takes over the world. A mass-market Tesla in every garage! There are already 115,000 orders!
Here's the full 22-minute unveiling on video: