Well it's finally here. After years of promises from Elon Musk and what feels like just as many years of speculation on what it would be, the Tesla Model 3 is here... or is it?
General Motors seemed to be hyper-focused the title of "First Affordable Long Range Battery Electric Vehicle". When GM launched the Chevy Bolt in December 2016, many observers in the electric vehicle community thought that Chevy had produced a rushed product so that they could 'beat' Tesla. Unlike in the Volt, where GM developed most of the technology in house and had what looked like a commitment to the new technology, the Bolt is largely outsourced. While outsourcing may be the way of the future, and may even be better for the EV industry as a whole, it does leave consumers wondering if GM is keeping one foot out the door. Add to this the fact that their product launch did not look like a typical GM new product launch and more like a compliance car launch, it was hard to tell if GM really wanted to sell this vehicle or if it felt forced to compete with Tesla and beat Tesla. Well, at least they 'won'... whatever that's worth.
In an industry that likes to segment everything to such fine granular detail that everyone is a winner, I'm not sure that anyone in the general public pays attention to the awards. -- I mean what is an affordable car? Why is 40,000 USD the cut off for affordable? Why not 70,000 USD or 20,000 USD? Sounds quite arbitrary to me. And I know that 200 (380 km) miles is the magical holy grail the industry has been working towards, but is that really when the mass market will drop their gas vehicles for electric? Probably not. Certainly not if there's no fast charging network that you can rely on. Even with fast charging on a Tesla network, recharging still takes a good deal more time than most consumers are willing to wait when they have 380 km of range at full charge.
Fast forward to July 28, 2017 when Tesla had a launch party for the Model 3 and gave the 'keys' to the first 30 owners. Like many others, being a day one reservation holder, I could hardly wait for this day. What new information will Tesla give us? When will we receive our cars? When will we know how much the upgrades will cost? So many questions to be answered! This will be great I thought. But it turns out, not so much. Tesla basically confirmed that everything we'd heard up to now was correct and they'll tell us the rest at a later date. When they feel like it. The main takeaways from the launch party was that Tesla released exactly what they said they would release, in the progressive ramp up and distribution plan they said they would. So yay?
Since the Model 3 will be produced in California and at low volumes in the near term... this launch looks a lot like the General Motors launch that was so widely criticized. The obvious difference of course is Tesla's commitment to the industry. But, corporate policies and vehicle attributes aside, the launch of the Model 3 does very closely resembles the launch of the Bolt. Tesla's reasoning is that they need to keep their vehicles close to home so they can correct any early issues that come up. Tesla is also primarily releasing vehicles to their staff to keep the feedback loop fast. Maybe it isn't a good thing to have one of the first cars coming out of the lot from Tesla? Maybe the car does need more testing, and this is when it is happening? Now. After the official launch. But we still want it now, and the hype is never-ending around this company because of this.
Perhaps a bit naively I thought that being a day one reservation holder would mean something in terms of when you received your car. Being in Canada (more or less Toronto) which is far from the plant, but still closer than several markets in the USA and certainly closer than anything overseas, I knew that the car wouldn't be coming in the first month or two. I did think (and I know I wasn't alone) that it would probably be within the first year. On the mytesla page where you can now check your estimated delivery I'm slotted in for delivery in late 2018. What? Late 2018? The production ramp up is estimated to be at 5,000 units per week by the end of this year. Tesla racked up about 180,000 reservations on Day 1 from eager buyers around the world. If we're waiting until November or December 2018 Tesla will have likely delivered many more than 180,000 cars. In fact if they plan to have an annual production capacity of 500,000 cars per year by the end of 2018, they should have sold somewhere between 260,000 and 500,000 cars by then. So what does a reservation mean to me in Canada then? I suppose it means that you receive your car early for your area, but more than a year after other people have been driving the same car, maybe even on streets in your area. And since their production capacity will be at half a million per year by that point, there doesn't seem to be a compelling reason to hold on to that reservation for anyone in Canada . Being a bit of a fanatic, I'll be holding on to my reservation, but I wonder how many others will when they realize that it doesn't really make much sense to leave 1000 dollars with Tesla so you can receive a car a few weeks earlier than someone who makes a reservation in November 2018.