The new luxury sedan, which also has the likes of Jaguar’s forthcoming XE and the Audi A4 in its sights, is the model Tesla expects to propel it beyond a market niche and into something resembling the mainstream. Its price and size are expected to make it the company’s top-seller. (Note: there are no images of the car yet, the picture above is a Model S).
The Californian company had wanted to call its eagerly awaited mainstream sedan the Model E — a cheeky move designed to complement its Model S and imminent Model X, thereby giving its range the acronym SEX — but a Ford lawsuit put the kibosh on that idea.
“We were going to call it Model E for a while and then Ford sued us saying it wanted use the Model E,” company founder and CEO Elon Musk told UK publication Auto Express this week.
“I thought, this is crazy, Ford’s trying to kill sex! So we’ll have to think of another name. The new model is going to be called Model 3, we’ll have three bars to represent in and it will be S III X.”
The Model 3 — or Model III — is likely to premiere in 2016, a little more than a year after the high-end Model X SUV emerges in early 2015. From that point, Tesla will have rivals to the BMW 3 Series, 5 Series (Model S) and X5/X6 (Model X).
It is expected to be about 20 per cent smaller than the model S and could be spun off a new platform, with some input from its forthcoming UK R&D centre. Projected range is at least 320 kilometres, though expect various spec levels offering more battery range. For reference, the top-spec Model S has more than 500km of claimed range.
The development of a third, and more importantly, decidedly mainstream model, has been made possible by the imminent construction of a US-based Gigafactory that will ramp up from 2017.
This massive (proposed) plant is said to be capable of providing sufficient cells to produce up to 500,000 cars per year by 2020. US states Nevada, Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas are said to be vying for the chance to host the plant.
Such scale of production is expected to keep the cost of the Model 3 to around US$35,000 ($37,500 AUD), making it cost-competitive with its German rivals. As Tesla’s Australian pricing of its forthcoming Model S proved, the company has form at living up to its pricing targets for market.
According to the Auto Express report, Tesla has a goal of selling 35,000 cars this year. As we know already, Tesla plans to take its production, R&D and supercharger network into Europe and Asia over the coming years, and to boost its volume into six figures by 2020.
Meanwhile, Musk also announced owners of its first-generation car, the Lotus-based Roadster - now out of production - would get a retro-fit battery upgrade soon that would up its range to a staggering 640km. Details on timing remain unclear on that front for now - stay tuned.