Tesla is revealing its Model 3 mass-market vehicle at 2:30PM AEST today in Los Angeles.
I’ll be there, so stay tuned for a firsthand account of the event on BI.
But if you have other plans, here’s what you need to know: this is going to be the first boring Tesla in history.
I know, that sounds awful. Tesla, boring? Bite your tongue.
Well, it’s about time Tesla got a little boring. For as long as I’ve been covering the company, it’s been exciting as hell.
Exciting to fault, really.
The original Roadster was fast and sexy, and its one fell swoop proved that electric cars could be more than glorified golf carts. The Model S showed that fast and sexy could be translated into the luxury sedan market. And the Model X demonstrated that fast and sexy could apply to the family car — America’s beloved SUV.
That’s just the car story. On the stock side, Tesla has been the very definition of a wild ride.
Shares IPO’d in the low double digits in 2010 — after, it should be noted, the company went through a near-death experience in 2008-09 — and later went totally parabolic, blasting to nearly $300 before shifting into a pattern of vertiginous ups and downs. We just went through one of the swoons recently, with the stock dipping below $150 earlier this year before recovering to current levels above $220.
Thrilling, to be sure, but the Model 3 isn’t going to extend that drama. Thankfully.
Tesla is effectively pulling the cover off its version of a Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla in Los Angeles. The car will certainly be pretty quick and have a few intriguing extras — that’s the Tesla way — and initial pricing will make it look more like a BMW 3-Series challenger than something first-time buyers would go for.
But the ultimate objective is to sell a 200-mile-plus-range platform for around $35,000. That’s twice as expensive as a base Corolla — more in line with a base BMW 3-Series, actually — but it’s just the beginning. Most of the 3’s cost is tied up in its batteries, so the game plan is to lower that cost, mainly by building a huge Gigafactory battery-making facility in Nevada, so that Tesla can provide true mass-market mobility and achieve CEO Elon Musk’s goal of accelerating humanity’s shift away from fossil fuels.
Tesla could start by selling a $50,000 Model 3, move to a true $35,000 version, and over time, drop the price to below $25,000 without sacrificing the all-important range that will make the 3 competitive with gas-powered cars.
The cost of this effort will of course be that the Model 3 will not get more exciting, as has been the case with the Model S as its been improved over the past few years (with the addition of all-wheel-drive and blistering “Ludicrous Mode” acceleration).
The Model 3’s destiny is to be the most uninteresting Tesla ever created.
This will be a vital signal of Tesla’s maturity. Oh my goodness, how sexy this car company has been over its history! But grownup automakers balance sexy with dowdy. General Motors has the stonking Corvette Z06 supercar at one end of the lineup — and the Chevy Cruze sedan at the other. Ford has the GT supercar and the Fiesta. VW Group has Porsches and Lamborghinis — and Golfs.
It goes on and on, but for Tesla to displace in any meaningful way these major players — and if it gets to 500,000 in annual production by 2020 — it will make a small dent. It needs to expand its product line in this dreary direction.
There will surely be some automotive hotness on display when Tesla finally pulls the cover off the Model 3. But hotness isn’t the game plan. And that’s cool.
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