The Tesla Model 3 is a car that suits people who don’t like public transport, and are also conscious of the environment. Personal mobility was pretty bad for the environment until the launch of the Model S. Even then, the S wasn’t a car to save the Earth – it was a car for the future. Our vision for 2050, at least in 2012, was a positive one. A utopia of perfect aesthetics where the eye can see, blue skies and low seas, and pods which move people around noiselessly and don’t change the smell of an orchid farm when they pass by.
The launch of the Model 3 in 2017 was a reassurance. That the future will be better still because technological progress is an unstoppable force. So the 3 was even less car-like than the S. Consider the front of it, which looks more natural for an EV. You don’t miss the grille as you do in the Model S. It is cheaper, so more people have access to this utopia. It also has a bigger touchscreen and level-3 autonomy. All the good bits have been retained, like the all-glass roof, minimalist interiors, sparse vehicle controls, exemplary range, and the savagery when you put your foot down.
The Model S had the battery and motor combination because it was too expensive to be a slouch. You wouldn’t spend 60,000 GBP on a car with single-colour thin seats, would you? Besides, Tesla was already good at this – their original, bootstrapped Roadster could do 60 mph in 3.9 seconds. That’s what you get from the Model 3 – huge car range and ridiculous motor power. Even the standard model 3 will propel you to 60 in 5 seconds.
The 3 works as a marketing campaign for Tesla. The in-cabin experience is so different and so special that all they need to do at a dealership is seat you in one. And once they let you drive it, the deal is sealed. People want Teslas. People who didn’t like cars before, love their Model S’s and 3’s. Because driving around in one of these will always draw attention to you. People will covet your car for its flowing, unbroken curves and how the glass roof lights up your face.
The social media presence of Tesla and its owner, Elon Musk, is all about these glowing faces and being at the leading edge of technology. Saab was always conceited about its aeroplane manufacturing roots. Tesla is firing space rockets. All of this indicates that Elon will stop at nothing.
That’s why the Model 3 works even for people who will never buy it. It raises the bar at every price point. The next time someone wants £45,000 for a car, it has to be better than a 3.