If you are interested in eco-friendly, battery-powered automobiles, then you may be familiar with the Tesla Model Series of electric cars. These models are widely regarded as among the best of their kind in the world today and have made Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk household names.
Tesla originally intended for the Model 3 to be Model E, which combined with the S and X models would have amusingly spelled “S-E-X”. However, Ford already had a trademark on the name “Model E” that was intended for use on it’s own electric cars. Tesla was forced to name it the Model 3 instead.
While amusing, this is not the only story that comes from the Model 3’s complicated history and development. Read on while we dig deeper into the issue and uncover more info about the history and design of the Model 3.
Why Not the Model E?
Tesla, and Musk, originally intended for the Model 3 to be named the Model E (potentially for the admittedly childish humor we alluded to above).
Tesla was unable to proceed with this idea, however, because Ford threatened to sue then, saying that the Model E was likely to be confused with their highly visible Model T brand. Musk and Tesla relented, and thus the more generic-sounding Model 3 name stuck owing to it being the third in the series.
The History of the Model 3
The Model 3 car first rolled off the assembly line in July 2017 after having been introduced by Musk the year before. The initial plans for the Model 3 and its sister models, however, go back more than a decade before.
In 2006, Musk published a slightly tongue-in-cheek blog post on Tesla’s official website declaring not only the Roadster’s (then the company’s signature model) superiority to the competition, but that a new series of Tesla electric cars would lead the way in helping the automotive industry shift from hydrocarbon fuels to solar electric energy.
The Model 3, which Musk cryptically described as the most affordable of the three coming models, has gone on to be an important part of Tesla’s astounding success story.
The Model 3 is Unveiled
Musk boldly declared in the model’s unveiling event on March 31st, 2016 in Los Angeles that the Model 3 would be “5 star in every category”, and that consumers “would not be able to buy a better car for $35,000 anywhere”. Given the Model’s features and subsequent success, it’s not easy to argue that he was exaggerating.
In fact, Tesla reported a staggering 325,000 reservations for the model within a week after the unveiling event, and these numbers represented the potential for $14 billion in revenue. When the Model 3 finally became available to the public the following year, it was revealed by Musk that the Model 3 was now receiving an average of 1,800 reservations per day.
Model 3 Unveiling and Prototypes
Needless to say, there was a lot in the way of hype both after the Model 3 was initially announced as well as after the 2016 unveiling. At the event, Musk revealed that the Model 3 would have the following (among other features):
- A 0-60mph acceleration rate in 6 seconds.
- Autopilot hardware included
- A starting retail value of $35,000.
- Supercharging standard built-in, and compatible with any electricity charging mechanism. (Musk also reiterated Tesla’s commitment to greatly increasing the number of public charging stations).
After many months of speculation continued in both the car enthusiast community and the general public, a Tesla letter to its shareholders confirmed that the Model 3 would be released on schedule.
Further developments included the publishing of a significant video on YouTube in March 2017 that showed a prototype Model 3 being driven on the road outside Tesla’s headquarters. The prototype in question, which was silver in color, bore a close resemblance to the final Model 3 that was released just a few months later.
In the end, the speculation over potential modifications was answered with the model’s 2017 release. It included a few changes that had obviously been made to the car’s overall appearance, one of which was that the final product appeared to be a bit longer than the initial prototype unveiled the year before.
Model 3: The Right Choice?
As with any vehicle, there are specifications, a price tag, overall strength of reviews and other attributes that make or break the product’s desirability for a consumer.
That said, the Model 3 is a clear choice if someone desires a combination of luxury and efficiency for their electric car, while being ready to spend at least $40,000.
Let’s look at what some of the major car review sites are saying about the Model 3:
Reviewer Pros Cons
|Edmunds||Edmunds describes the Model 3 as “an impressive sedan” and ranks it #1 on the list of top electric vehicles of 2021 and 2022. It is rated 8.4 out of 10.It specifically praises the model’s range as well as other features.||The lack of compatibility with Apple Car Play.|
|Motortrend||Motortrend says that the 2021 Model 3 is a “game-changing electric vehicle”. It is rated 8.8 out of 10.||As with Edmunds’ review, Motortrend is not a fan of some of the car’s multimedia features. Additionally, it criticizes the “road and tire noise”|
|Consumer Reports||Consumer Reports praises the 2021 model’s acceleration and handling.||The bumpiness of the ride and the placement of the rear seating are just two of the criticisms.Consumer Reports warns that the removal of Forward Collision Warning and Automatic Braking are factors against the new Model 3.See below for a significant criticism from Consumer Reports made in 2019.|
An additional set of criticisms of the Model 3 structure–and perhaps one of significance–was put forth in a negative video review by the auto consultant firm Munro & Associates. Their assessment of the model’s problems included:
- A front hood that was unusually difficult to open, with the firm’s CEO describing it as “a miserable job” and potentially dangerous if the car were to lose power in an accident.
- Inefficient handles and unmistakable gaps in between the car door frame and window.
- A difficult trunk to close that bore a resemblance to “90s Kias”
Lack of Transparency Issues
Another factor in terms of drawbacks to the Model 3–and with the Tesla series in general–is that the company has been accused of deception in its marketing practices.
On the issue of safety, Tesla has been accused by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of embellishing the NHTSA’s assessment of the Model 3 passenger’s likelihood of injury in the event of a crash. The NHTSA would follow up with another investigation in 2019 after two people died in a fatal crash involving a Model S that was on “autopilot”.
Speaking of the autopilot program installed in the Model 3 and its counterparts, Tesla has also been accused of deceiving consumers regarding the capabilities of the autopilot features.
Lastly, the Model 3 temporarily ceased being recommended by Consumer Reports in 2019 due to “reliability issues”; this and other setbacks prompted the influential investor Mark Tepper to declare on CNBC that Tesla was completely lacking in transparency and was being reduced to “basically now nothing more than a sedan company…”.
There can be little doubt that the Tesla brand and its Model 3 are currently in a golden age of sorts, and that they will likely be at the forefront of the Electric Car business for some years to come. The Model 3, however, is clearly not without its issues and it will not be an easy battle for it to remain a top-seller. In the end, consumers should carefully discern whether the Model 3 is the right product for them based upon features, strength of reviews, and other factors.