By the time Elon Musk unveiled the Tesla Model 3 in California, reservations had already topped 115,000, sight unseen. The number was astounding, even for a company that attracts so much media hype and consumer enthusiasm. When the car rolled across the stage, the number started to seem low. It looked like the car the industry has been waiting for — something so lacking in the Chevy Bolt rollout. But it got better.
“Even if you buy it [with] no options at all, this will still be an amazing car,” Musk said. “You will not be able to buy a better car for $35,000 — or even close — even if you get no options.” Before you get trapped inside the hyperbole and can’t find your way out, we offer five takeaways from the Model 3 launch.
1. Tesla beat its range estimate
We were promised 200 miles of range; we got at least 215. Exceeding expectations is one of Tesla’s calling cards, and the automaker obviously feels bullish about its advances in battery development. Musk noted that the Gigafactory will have the largest footprint of any building on earth. Apparently, it’s being put to good use.
2. Supercharging is part of the package
There was rampant speculation about the potential for Supercharger use once Tesla hit the mainstream. How would all those people share the available plugs? Also, would the automaker make that a pricey option in the Model 3? Musk was clear: “Supercharging will come standard,” he said. As for crowding at the charging sites, Tesla is working on that part as well. Musk said the number of Superchargers would double to 7,200 by the end of 2017. The number of destination chargers, which provide over 55 miles per hour, will quadruple to 15,000.
3. Model 3 makes no style compromise
After being in and around the Chevy Bolt, we wondered what type of style compromise Model 3 would have to make compared to the pricier Teslas. Apparently, Tesla does not make those compromises. This car can stand next to any entry-level model from luxury automakers. It looks like it costs at least $35,000, which should bring in many thousands of new consumers. Tesla’s plan to grab market share seems perfectly justified and, just 24 hours into reservations, the automaker already had 198,000 takers.
4. The interior is the weak spot
If there was one weakness in the Model 3 at launch, it would be the interior. We get the impression of a tablet glued to a nonexistent instrument console. We don’t expect the Tesla version of a mobile device to be as buggy as the average tablet on the market, but frustration with screen responsiveness and operating systems seem to come with the territory. This car is a prototype, so we are hoping improvements come in the realm of interior tech.
5. Model 3 should dominate the segment
By late 2018, EV consumers will be faced with a choice between this attractive sedan and a few others, including the more expensive ($37,500) Chevy Bolt. We have trouble seeing many consumers choose that GM product over this Model 3. From the standpoint of range and looks, Bolt is already playing catch-up. Elon Musk provided some cocktail-napkin math based on the early returns to illustrate this point. Basing his estimate on a price of $42,000, he figured Tesla had about $7.5 billion in future orders. We call that a nice headstart on the competition.