On March 31, 2016, the Tesla Model 3 will be unveiled and people all over the world will be able to put a deposit down on a Model 3, a car which will not even ship until late 2017. Given Tesla’s notorious late shipping history, the Model 3 will probably not ship until sometime in 2018. Since it is a geographical and “high-value customer” rollout, I will not see mine until late 2018. But that’s okay.
At 10am local time ON March 31st, 2016, buyers can walk into a Tesla Store and plunk down $1000 to be among the first to get delivery. Want to do it online? You will have to wait until the official unveiling, which occurs at 8:30pm PDT that night.
So, here is what is going to happen: Tesla’s famous CEO, Elon Musk – you know, the guy that wants to colonize Mars – will come out on stage at 8:30pm PDT and during his remarks will be able to comment that “already today, 4 biiiiiiilllliioonnn people have ALREADY placed their order for a Model 3.”
Ok, maybe that would be if Doctor Evil said it, but you get my point.
It’s a genius plan. If I (and Tesla) are guessing wrong about the demand, and thousands of people don’t plunk their money down for a car they’ve never seen – much less driven – then he doesn’t have to mention it. No harm, no foul.
Regardless of lines or no lines, Model 3 sales will be huge for Tesla and the electric car industry. Think about this: The Model S is the largest selling luxury sedan in the United States, and it starts at $75,000 (I would have to at spend about $95k to get one like I want). The Model 3 starts at $35,000, not counting tax credits.
The Model 3 will change the industry and everyone’s views on electric cars. It will also dramatically reduce our dependence on oil and the baggage (global warming and that pesky war thing) that goes with it.
Why will sales be huge? There are a lot of people – and I am one of them – that want to drive a well-designed electric car. One that doesn’t look like a hamster that survived some sort of weird genetic experiment; one that performs like a modern car should perform; and one that has more range and dramatically less pollution than a riding lawn mower.
And we customers will not or cannot spend $100,000 for a car.
Tesla’s consumer electronic products so far have oozed coolness, performance, and geek cred all rolled up in the same machine. The Model 3 should be no different, except this time it is at a starting price of about $35,000. Think baby Bimmer.
Yes, I said consumer electronics. Arguably, today, the only thing that prevents traditional automobiles from being widely-classified as consumer electronics is that 100-year old Henry Ford curse of creating mass-market cars with internal combustion engines. Once automobiles have electric engines, they will mostly be electronic. Automobiles are already consumer devices.
But here is the rub about cars being consumer electronics: The only way a car of today will stay up-to-date with device connectivity and other new conveniences of our always-connected world is to get a new one every 3 years or so, and even that is pushing it. Think about this: How many of you buy the latest iPhone as soon as it comes out? Every freaking year? Consumer electronics companies know that they have to innovate as fast as they possibly can to just survive. If they don’t, they die. Remember Blackberry? Auto manufacturers are slowly beginning to learn they have to innovate much quicker than before. Many models are redone every 3 or so.
But Tesla knows that once a really good design is set, it’s all about the software. Tesla’s are updated over WiFi while it is sitting in your garage. From the manufacturer. While you sleep. But all other auto manufacturers make you go into a independently-owned dealership to explain what the problem is, and that is after a decade or two of all cars having computers and software that manage engines, climate control, transmissions, etc. Not that they are Luddites, though – they keep huge databases of repairs, so they already know of most problems you are likely to encounter. Hey, GM, thanks for letting me know.
Then, the dealer has to do the software update. “Here’s some coffee. Would you like a ride back to work?”
Using this thing called the Internet (which I guess most auto manufacturers still think is an intersting experiment), Tesla diagnosis and updates your car’s software to address issues, increase reliability and even add features without requiring you, the customer, to call it to someone’s attention. And since these someones aren’t the manufacturer, sometimes someones don’t really care – but that is another topic.
Want to join me Thursday to put your money where my mouth is? Get out your checkbook and visit a Tesla showroom, or order one online. Let’s help revolutionize the Consumer Electronic Transportation Industry (CETI™ – I just invented that. Rhymes with SETI. By the way, did you know Nikola Tesla suggested that an extreme version of his wireless electrical transmission system could be used to contact beings on Mars? Coincidence? I think not.)
Look for me at the Tesla NorthPark Center Thursday, while I put my money where my mouth is, and follow me on Twitter and Facebook for updates. I’ll be taking photos and live tweeting and blogging and that kinda stuff.
Disclosure: I own Tesla stock, but I would still feel the same, dammit.