TESLA is already looking to improve its much-hyped Model 3, yet it has only just been revealed and is two years from going on sale in Australia.
The first of two planned reveals for the car show a futuristic-looking four-door sedan with a hatch-like profile.
Within days of the cheering-and-chanting reveal, Tesla CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter to say there is “some tweaking underway” when quizzed about the nose of the car, also adding that “edge and contour refinement are ongoing”.
Musk also hinted there could be interior design updates: “Wait until you see the real steering controls and system for the Model 3. It feels like a spaceship.”
The Tesla Model 3 completes a small but influential EV family making a small but significant dent on the luxury car world. Or, as Tesla describes the Model 3, it is “the final step in the master plan”, the car the loss-making California-based company hopes will launch it into profitability.
It is aimed squarely at the sweet spot of the luxury market – the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Audi A4, Lexus IS and Jaguar XE – with a comparable starting price of $US35,000.
As with other Teslas, the Model 3’s floorpan is a mass of lithium-ion batteries that power at least one electric motor.
Details of what’s beneath the skin are scant, but it’s claimed to have a coefficient of drag of just 0.21 and will accelerate to 100km/h in less than six seconds.
“At Tesla we don’t make slow cars,” said Musk, prompting more cheers from the enthusiastic crowd assembled for the live stream reveal. “And there will be versions of the Model 3 that go faster.”
Musk later confirmed there would be rear-drive single-motor versions as well as faster dual-motor models. Expect the latter ones to reduce that 0-100km/h sprint to closer to 3.0sec.
Tesla claims the Model 3 can comfortably fit five adults, partially because the front seats have been moved forward, with the legs of those sitting up front encroaching on the space usually occupied by an engine in a car with an internal combustion engine.
What about Australia?
A local source told Wheels people started queuing outside Tesla’s Sydney and Melbourne offices after the reveal, and that thousands of Australian fanatics have handed over $1500 deposits.
However, Model 3 deliveries are not expected here until 2018. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said those in California will have priority on early 3s, something he defended on Twitter by saying it allowed “rapid turnaround on early issues”. In other words, there’s likely to be problems with the tech and we want to jump on it before we send cars all over the world.
Australian pricing is also yet to be determined, although at today’s exchange rate it would be about $55,000 with GST and stamp duty (import duty won’t apply because there’s an FTA with the US and the Model 3 will also avoid luxury car tax). It will also depend on exchange rates; Tesla has already implemented four price rises for the Model S over the past year.
Keeping it real
Tesla claims 200,000 people placed deposits of about $1500 each within 24 hours of the reveal – and the number kept growing in the days after the unveiling. These are remarkable figures for a small company that could do with the $300 million injection into the coffers.
Tesla encourages fanatical and loyal owners to queue for the privilege of getting one of the first cars in order to create an Apple-like hype and mystique.
The challenge for Tesla is producing so many cars. It currently produces about 50,000 cars annually, but Musk wants to ramp that up to 500,000 by 2020.
In the meantime, there’s plenty of work to be done, including keeping so many would-be owners content – and just as fanatical as ever.