The sleek, five-seater Model 3, which can travel 215 miles on one charge and accelerate from zero to 60 in six seconds, is designed and priced to appeal to everyday commuters, not niche enthusiasts. When Tesla announced the release of the Model 3 back in 2016, it received nearly 400,000 pre-order reservations for $1,000 each. Considering that only 60,000 plug-in cars were sold in all of 2016 — that includes both plug-in hybrids and plug-in electric vehicles — the demand for Model 3 is staggering.
Caldwell said that the Tesla brand is wholly unique in the car world, matching emotional design with a climate-saving mission. Now that the price of entry has been cut by more than half, consumers are scrambling to be part of the Tesla movement.
“We’ve never seen a car have reservations the year before it came out,” Caldwell said. “Maybe for a special model supercar, but not for a mass-market sedan. It’s all uncharted territory. No one really has a model for how this is going to shake out.”
If Tesla hits its production goals, it could deliver 300,000 Model 3s by the end of 2018. Unfortunately, Tesla has a rocky history of meeting production forecasts, and previous debuts have been marred by technical glitches. There are many questions remaining about whether the Model 3 will be the cash cow that Tesla so desperately needs.
“Will it be reliable? Will people who get the early models have issues with it?” wondered Caldwell. With long wait times — reserving a Model 3 today will get you a car in a year or more — there’s plenty of time for consumers to lose interest. You can get a full refund for your $1,000 reservation if you cancel before signing the final purchase order. “Things have a moment,” added Caldwell, “but the moment doesn’t last forever.”
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If the Model 3 is a hit, though, it could provide the momentum that the entire EV market has been waiting for.
“[Electric vehicle makers] really need something like this, a mass-market car that people are excited about,” said Caldwell. “The Chevy Bolt is, from all accounts, a great product, but it doesn’t get people overly passionate. This car can be a linchpin for the movement.”
Tesla offers competitive financing for all of its cars, plus options to lease. The company has also worked hard to ease “range anxiety” associated with electric vehicles by building 909 Supercharging stations in the United States, not only clustered in large cities, but along major interstates nationwide.