Commentary

Musk Set To Reveal The Mass-Market Tesla

At an invitation-only gala on the Space X campus in Hawthorne, Calif., this evening, Elon Musk will take the wraps off the Tesla Model 3, the long-range, all-electric vehicle that — with an entry price of $35,000 — is purportedly for the masses.

“The Model 3 will test whether a much broader swath of the American car market is ready to make the leap to electrics,” writes Chris Woodyard for USA Today. “This is a game changer for Tesla,” AutoPacific president George Peterson tells him. “They have to go for higher volume and really stretch.”

In a piece that runs down what we do and, more predominantly, don’t know about the Model 3, which Tesla has successfully kept a lid on, CNNMoney.com’s Chris Isidore writes: “The Model 3 will be more like Tesla's Model S sedan than its Model X crossover. But the company has kept the design under wraps. It definitely won't have the distinctive falcon wing doors of the Model X.”

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He also reminds us that “Musk said in February that Tesla might hold back on some features for the Model 3 to get the car to market faster, having learned a lesson with the much-delayed Model X SUV.” 

Not that it won’t be facing stiff competition even if it does meet its deadlines. “Forget about old grudge matches like Chevrolet vs. Ford or Honda vs. Toyota. The fight brewing between General Motors and Tesla Motors is shaping up to be nastier,” writes Bloomberg’s David Welch.

Specifically, GM’s Chevy Bolt, although Musk has been dismissive of those claims, saying the Model 3 is really competing with the likes of the BMW 3 Series or Audi A4. But observers aren’t letting him off that easy.

The Bolt, expected to retail at $37,500 with a similar 200-mile-or-so range, will be the Model 3’s “one great challenge,” writes Charles Fleming for the Los Angeles Times. “Though the company now will say only that the car will be in production this year, it is generally assumed that the Bolt (from a company that has already had success with its hybrid plug-in electric Volt) will be on the market before Tesla's Model 3.”

But “retail sales are not the only source of sales for the Model 3,” points out David Kiley for Forbes. “Electric cars are viewed as a key factor in the rise of ride-sharing services,” Kiley writes, citing a research report by Sam Jaffe, a tech analyst at Cairn Energy Research Advisers. 

“Tesla Motors will become a major player in the car-sharing market,” Jaffe predicts, saying it “controls both the vehicle technology and has the software development capabilities to control the software platform that would be at the heart of such a service.” 

Meanwhile, customers were lining up around the world to put down a deposit on the vehicle even though they won’t roll off the assembly line until December 2017 (if all goes according to plan, which has famously not been the case for Tesla so far).

“If you were to take a really serious, old-school iPhone launch day with big lines in front of Apple Stores, but substitute a $35,000-plus giant gadget in place of a phone, you'd get Tesla Model 3 pre-order day. It's getting real out there,” writes Chris Ziegler for The Verge

“I got here just before 10 a.m. today so about 24 hours ahead of time,” Sebastian Vollering told KTVU outside the Tesla store in Walnut Creek, Calif. He then laid out the reasons he wants one: “They represent the energy future, independence from foreign oil, sustainability when it comes to transportation, and they’re all American made.”

But there’s more to it than American pride. Andreas Stephens was sitting outside the Tesla Showroom on Sydney’s Lower North Shore in Artarmon 48 hours before he’d be able to put down his $1,500 Aussie dollars “even though he doesn’t even have a garage.” Yet. “I’ve got two years to build one,” he tells EFTM.com.

If you were not invited to the event this evening, fret not. It will be live-streamed here. “Know that you’re about to experience history,” crows Teslarati.com. The big question after tonight, though, will be “when, exactly.”

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