The Tesla Model 3 unveiling was arguably the most anticipated automotive event in our lifetimes, if not in the last 100 years. The car not only brings with it the promise of Tesla ownership to millions who were unable to afford a Model S, but also the hope for sustainable personal transportation not only for those alive today but for generations to come. In no uncertain terms, I’m proclaiming the Model 3 as the catalyst for changes yet unseen. Automakers across the board have responded and are still responding to the tsunami of unanticipated attention that the Model 3 has garnered. The truth of the matter and the significance of this car in automotive history will be revealed in retrospectives looking back on the last few weeks as a significant period in history. (Editor’s note: by the way, see our extensive and exclusive photos and videos from the Model 3 test track if you haven’t yet.)
With such an unexpected groundswell of support for the Model 3, even Tesla is reeling, and the crazy part is, not one order has been placed yet. Heck, we don’t even know what the specs are on the thing for the most part. But there is one thing we know with certainty — people want it. TONS of people want it. This week, Tesla Vice President of Business Development Diarmuid O’Connell shared in a talk at AEC 2016 that Model 3 reservations are approaching 400,000 (!?!). He also mentioned that the “free forever charging model is sustainable,” something about Tesla trucks, and some other fun comments… but those will have to be another story altogether….
And thankfully for us, the same folks who brought Model X Tracker to the world have continued the legacy with the new and even more popular Model 3 Tracker, which looks to tap into the hive mind of the reservation holder to glean some insights into what the masses are looking for from the Model 3. This site is an opt-in site where folks who put reservations in on the Model 3 can read about what options are likely to pop up and can contribute their preferences to the ever-growing pool of survey respondents as to what they are likely to reserve.
It’s worth noting that these are just surveys about what options reservation holders are likely to pay for but obviously don’t represent actual orders. It’s one thing to say you want the “bigger battery” but it’s another thing to say that you’re willing to pay $15,000 for it. :). Having said that, the results are quite exciting to dig through and provide some fun insights into exactly what Model 3 owners are looking for in the car.
Lots of Heavily Optioned Model 3s
Upon first glance at the options preferences, I was a bit shocked. Dang, people are really throwing down for this car! But after thinking about it for a few seconds, it makes tons of sense. This is not just a $35,000 car. This is likely the best car from $35,000 up to the point where you hit the price point of the current “best car” — the Tesla Model S. So, what we’re seeing with Model 3 is a flood of pent-up demand for everyone in the $35,000 price bracket, the $45,000 price bracket, the $55,000 price bracket … all the way up to the $70,000 price bracket, and likely a bit above and below that range as well.
Not everyone would be content with “just” a base Tesla Model S, and we are seeing a ton of that demand hitting Model 3 now. I know that, for me, I was bummed that I wasn’t willing to financially stretch (further than I did) to afford a Model S with autopilot … but I was beyond stoked to get a Model S at all. Because Model 3 hits such a wide span of the market, there are a lot of folks who can afford — and are willing to pay for — a fully loaded Model 3. Ironically, we see the same trend with Model S, where the average selling price of the car (which starts at $70,000) is a staggering $110,000.
Supercharging Really is a Big Deal
Digging into the specifics of the survey, the option coming in top spot for what buyers are willing to pay more for is Supercharging. To be honest, this was also a bit surprising to me, as I was fully expecting Autopilot, but it turns out, the majority of buyers understand the importance of Supercharging. (Note: this matches the results of CleanTechnica‘s EV market research report quite well.)
I guess these people are not in the auto industry, though, because every other auto manufacturer seems to think public charging isn’t their responsibility.
A full 89.6% of respondents on th Model 3 tracker said they were interested in Supercharging. I’m thankful for this quantifiable data point, more in the hopes that other automakers hear the message that consumers want super-fast public charging, and are willing to pay for it more than anything … though, on the flip-side, I am a bit concerned about what that demand is going to look like when it hits Supercharging stations around the globe.
Autopilot is a Big Deal, too
While autopilot ceded the top spot to Supercharging, it was still selected by a full 86.7% of respondents. Affordable, accessible autopilot is a huge part of the appeal of the Model 3 for those in the know, as we are on the cusp of the technology being ready for the mainstream and, with autopilot being a system comprised of a few hundred dollars of hardware (that we already have, we just need to find the best combination thereof) and some über complex software (that we have most of already, just need to put a final polish on), once it’s ready for mainstream, there’s nothing that will stop it.
Retrofit kits will become a huge business (like this guy’s upstart), hardware will be included in every new car, active safety features which rely on autopilotesque tech will become mandatory, and the field is just going to explode … and Tesla is on the bleeding edge of the charge towards production. People want the tech and I would even go so far as to say that autopilot is a huge draw for the company and for the Model 3 (I know it is for me and for most of the people Zach and I interviewed in line at the Santa Monica Tesla store) and these results reinforce that.
Not So Hot on Premium Wheels
From the initial survey, buyers are not extremely interested in premium wheels, even with the new dubs Elon and team introduced at the Model 3 event. I’ve never been a big wheel guy, so this isn’t surprising for me, but on the other hand, there were 20% of respondents who said they were interested in upgraded wheels.
AWD is a Draw
I recently chatted with a few readers in the comments about “why AWD” and for me, the two big selling points are extra traction control — especially where there’s weather (we don’t have real weather here in Southern California) — and increased efficiency. Counterintuitively, adding the weight and power used by a second motor and the extra power that comes with it actually increases the overall efficiency of the car by 10%. What?! Yeah, I know, right?
Tesla has some mad geniuses working on this stuff and has found a way to essentially let the motors tag team the whole, moving the car business forward where they can constantly optimize the overall load and power balance to optimize efficiency at the millisecond level. Elon Musk talked about it a bit at the “D” event if you’re interested in the details. Crazy stuff, and yet another reason I love these guys. I really have no need for extra traction or the extra range but love the tech … and, apparently, I’m not alone. 🙂
I Like Big … Batteries and I cannot Lie
This was the one requirement for me on my Model S because I love to drive. Not only around town, because that’s easy with most EVs on the market today already … but as Zach knows, around Los Angeles (~70 miles away), from Ohio across the country to California, as well as just having flexibility for who knows what.
Many of the folks who put in reservations in for the Model 3 are likely new to EVs. They may not have any experience with charging. I would even bet that some reservation holders still don’t know that it’s electric (like, “no gas” electric) … and that’s ok because it’s really not that big of a deal. Being new to EVs comes with the perception of range anxiety that’s been all the rage in mainstream media, and bigger batteries are the result of that.
Those were the big nuggets of insight for me … head on over to the Model 3 Tracker site for the full rundown.
Survey screenshots from the Model 3 Tracker site.