Tesla Model 3: test rides continued unabated late into the night — people were still lined up around 11 pm when I left. (Credit: Brooke Crothers)
Tesla Motors domination of the future U.S. electric car market seems likely now.
Test Ride: As soon as I arrived at the SpaceX facilities in Hawthorne, Calif., a Tesla employee whisked me to the Model 3 for a test ride with two other passengers. The ride was brief but it isn’t hard to see where all of this is going (purported design “fails” notwithstanding). Tesla is already getting tons of orders – over 250,000 as of this weekend and I suspect eventually millions — for the 215-mile range, $35,000 (starting price) Model 3.
“About 116,000 plug-in cars were sold in the U.S. in all of 2015. Tesla just pre-sold more than double that in 24 hrs,” said Max Zanan, CEO of IDDS Group, an automotive consulting firm, in an email sent to the media.
The Model 3 is a Tesla through and through. I was completely sold after the test ride. No, it’s not as upscale as Model S or Model X but it has the same look and feel. That’s what sold me. To a car nerd (which I’m not) there will of course be differences. Things like the ultra-minimalist dash might come as a shock: gone is the second display behind the steering wheel in the Model S. It’s now just a single 15-inch landscape display in the center of the dash. But I was too distracted with (enamored by) the giant panoramic glass roof, comfortable seats, and speed to notice (supposed) imperfections. In short, you’re paying a lot less but still getting a Tesla with all of the styling, speed, and status that go with it.
And speaking of speed, it’s fast. Part of the test ride was punching it so you could experience the straight-line Ludicrous Mode-like acceleration. And it felt like Ludicrous Mode (which I’ve tried on the Model S P90D). “We don’t make slow cars,” as Elon Musk put it. (The slowest base Model 3 will do zero to 60 in under six seconds.) Oh, and it’s surprisingly roomy. I‘m tall (almost 6′ 3″) and had no trouble slipping into the back seat. That’s possible because the
Model S’s Model 3′s front seats are pushed forward a bit more, opening up more room in the back.
And the Naysayers: Naysayers (e.g., contributors at message boards and stock-gyration blogs like Seeking Alpha) are already cranking out daily jeremiads about Tesla’s impending doom because of the Model 3 and Model X, depending on what kind of FUD the writer wants to fling on a particular day. Don’t believe it. There will be bumps along the way as Tesla retools its factories and gets a handle on its gigafactory but the Model 3 will eventually be delivered in large numbers with the company intact.
Buh-bye Prius: And I can’t wait for the Model 3 to get here. I already live in an area of Los Angeles swarming with Chevy Volts, Nissan Leafs, BMW i3s, and Model S’s (and a tiny but growing population of Model X). I expect by 2020, the cheaper Model 3 will begin to convert a large chunk of Prius (boring!) owners and transform Los Angeles highways into all-electric speedways. The sooner that happens, the better.