The Tesla Model 3 reveal in 2016 was the most anticipated vehicle reveal in history, and perhaps the most anticipated product reveal of any kind. More recently, production launch has been the most anticipated production launch of any vehicle since perhaps the Ford Model T.
Humanity (and perhaps AI) will look back on the Model 3 as an iconic vehicle. Before the 3 launch, electric vehicles were merely niche products for fanatics. After the 3 launch, electric cars were mainstream. The inflection point was not a single moment in time but a progression, a gradual transition from black to white, but it is safe to say that the catalytic drop into the market that started the reaction was the initial Model 3 reveal event on March 31st, 2016, when the world saw the Model 3 for the very first time.
Before that moment, people wondered, people hoped, people hated (haters gonna hate), and skeptics scoffed. After the reveal, the haters were silenced as hundreds of thousands of reservations attempted to break the internet in parallel to the livestreaming of the event from the Tesla Design Studio in Hawthorne, California.
Fast forward to today. Summer is nearing full swing and the energy is high as Tesla is set to reveal the final production version of its Model 3 to the world. We know what it looks like thanks to pictures tweeted out by Tesla’s CEO at large Elon Musk, whose tweets have arguably changed the world more than any other in human history, even recently brokering the largest grid-scale battery installation in the world thanks to a Twitter discussion with an Australian billionaire.
Tesla has showed the production version of Model 3 to the world but there are dozens of changes that could still be rolled into the show, like the steering wheel configuration, the actual layout of the landscape center display, and even the final production look and feel of that display. The dash layout has been perhaps the most controversial design choice in the Model 3, and reservation holders and investors around the world are sure to have their eyes fixed on every nuance that could affect their positions.
We are looking for a display layout that is flexible, with only a few elements that cannot be configured or moved around — like the location of the speedometer and safety alerts. Utilizing a single display for speedometer, navigation, climate, and vehicle functions not only lowers manufacturing cost and complexity, but it also gives flexibility for the future. When Model 3 becomes an autonomous vehicle after a software update in the years to come, Tesla can transform the entire screen into an entertainment experience. The interior will immediately transform from being an information center for the driver and evolve into something completely different.
Many people simply do not understand how much the transition to autonomous vehicles will transform the personal vehicle experience, but one thing is clear: when drivers turn into passengers, the interior can — and must — look and feel quite different.
A New Take On Manufacturing
One key thing we are expecting to learn about tonight is the status of the Model 3 production lines. How many lines have been completed to date? What will the production ramp look like based on early learnings from production of the new vehicle to date? Just as Tesla upended the petroleum-addicted fossil-fueled automotive industry, the Tesla Model 3 production process is revolutionizing how vehicles are built. Elon has attempted to twist the spotlight from the vehicle itself to “the machine that builds the machine,” stating that it is 100 times harder to develop the manufacturing processes that build the vehicle than it is to build the vehicle itself.
That translates to a complete reimagining of every inch of the production process. That redesign will be put to the test as Tesla attempts to scale up production faster than has been done in history (notice a theme here?). If Tesla can ramp up quickly, it will trim out the high costs of experts and downtime associated with long production builds. Tesla has pinned investor credibility and the hopes of expectant reservation holders on its ability to deliver on its aggressive production schedule. There will certainly be issues, but it is the ability to refine the process based on learnings from the Roadster, the Model S, and especially painful Model X production issues that have many hoping that Model 3 will be able to topple historical results and break into volumes that would make Tesla a true volume competitor with the big players in the automotive industry.
Range To Rule Them All
Following the “build it and they will come” ideology made popular by cheesy Hollywood movies, Tesla already knows reservation holders are hungry for Model 3, which is where things get interesting. We still don’t know what the official range of the Model 3 will be even though all signs point to it having more range than the Chevy Bolt. In Elon’s typical joking fashion, he commented offhand that it would have more range than the Chevy Bolt, which boasts an impressive 238 miles of EPA rated all electric range — that should be plenty for normal people, but we’re still eager to learn the details.
Elon also tends to have a competitive streak, and with Tesla’s dominance of the electric vehicle industry in terms of forward-looking visionary plans to literally change the world and transform the world’s transportation system, it would be a massive surprise if the Model 3 range came in any lower than 238 miles. 239 would play well in the media as a snub but 240 miles is a nice round number and is my guess for what the official range will be for the Model 3. Previous statements from Tesla simply stated that it would be at least 215 miles. [Editor’s note: I think Elon wouldn’t like it to be too close to the Bolt range and really, really likes round numbers, so I’m guessing 250 miles. —Zach]
All The Options
Options allow users to customize their vehicle to specs that meet their budgetary and lifestyle desires, but Model 3 will be a drastic divergence from Tesla’s historical approach to options. Model S and X can be customized to the hilt with a variety of options for interior colors, dash materials, rims, exterior colors, and the like, with over 1,500 possible configuration options.
Model 3 on the other hand will be the model of simplicity, hosting fewer than 100 configuration options at launch. Elon stated that early buyers would only have a choice of rims and exterior color, with only black being offered as the interior color. Fabric choices? Forget about it. Alcantara? Nope. Even all-wheel-drive (AWD) will have to wait until 2018 to even be available as an option. Start adding up the options available already and there’s not too much out there that we don’t know — rims, paint, AWD, Ludicrous mode.
Speculation is rampant about what else might be available and perhaps Elon was only talking about configurations of the physical vehicle itself and not software configurable options. The veil will be lifted and all will be illuminated following tonight’s event. We are expecting to get a run down on what options will officially be available at launch and what options will be coming down the line.
These options will be made visible to reservation holders following the event, as the Model 3 product design studio is expected to go live after the event. How many users will get invites to configure, what options will be visible or available to be selected, and what the price will be for each option is all up in the air.
One More Thing …
In addition to what we already know we don’t know, Tesla could have something completely tangential up its sleeve. Could it show off the first Model Y teaser photo? Will the Tesla Semi prototype make an appearance? Is a Tesla Pickup Truck ready to come out of hiding for the world media? It’s anyone’s guess, but if Tesla’s track record is any indication, odds are we’ll see something beyond just the production version of the Model 3 at tonight’s reveal.
Watch It Live
To watch the event live, head over to the livestream at tesla.com at 8:45 pm Pacific Time for all the juicy details.
— Tesla (@Tesla) July 26, 2017