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Future models - Tesla - Model 3

Tesla Model 3 revealed in full at handover event

Staff perks: The first 30 customer deliveries of the new Model 3 were made to Tesla employees who had reserved one for themselves.

First 30 production Model 3s handed over to Tesla employee reservation holders

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Tesla logo31 Jul 2017

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

TESLA’S most affordable car to date, the Model 3, was revealed in full at the company’s Fremont factory in California last weekend, where the first 30 production vehicles were handed over to employees who had opted to buy one for themselves.

In the United States, the Model 3 is priced from $US35,000 ($A43,894) before government incentives, with initial customer deliveries commencing from late September – around 18 months after reservations opened on March 31 last year.

Tesla has confirmed that Australian orders will not be fulfilled until 2019, when deliveries in right-hand-drive markets get underway – a few months after the first (left-hand-drive) “international” markets start receiving their cars in late 2018.

Pricing is yet to be revealed, although Tesla CEO Elon Musk has committed to bringing the all-new model here with “$US price in $AUD plus import duties and sales tax”.

Expect an opening ticket of between $50,000 and $60,000 for the Model 3, which will compete on price and size terms with the Alfa Romeo Giulia, Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Infiniti Q50, Jaguar XE, Lexus IS and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

To the hundreds of thousands of early adopters who put deposits down for a Model 3 in the first weeks, Mr Musk said the company was “going to do everything we can to get the car as soon as possible”.

“We’re going to work day and night to do right by the loyalty you have shown us,” he said.

He added that people ordering a Model 3 now will “probably get it towards the end of next year”, before reminding potential customers that the much more expensive Model S and Model X have a lead time of “one or two months”.

The standard Model 3 battery range is 354km based on US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates, with an optional long-range battery boosting range to 499km for $US9000 extra.

Upgrading the battery also reduces 0-60mph (96.6km/h) acceleration from 5.6 seconds to 5.1s and bumps up the top speed from 209km/h to 225km/h.

In a departure from the larger Model S sedan and Model X SUV that have a digital instrument panel and portrait-oriented central touchscreen, the minimalist, slimline dashboard of a Model 3 has a single 15-inch landscape-oriented central screen providing access to almost all vehicle functions, including serving as the driver’s instrument panel.

Mr Musk said the lack of traditional instrument binnacle was related to the company’s products having self-driving capability.

“In the future – the future being now – cars will be increasingly autonomous, so you won’t really need to look at an instrument panel all that often,” he said.

Standard Model 3 equipment includes dual-zone climate control, satellite navigation and mapping, FM and internet radio reception, Wi-Fi and 4G mobile internet connectivity, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, two USB inputs, a reversing camera, voice activation, a self-dimming interior mirror, eight airbags, electronic stability and traction control, security alarm and a 12V power outlet.

There is also mobile app-based keyless entry/start including remote interior pre-heating and cooling, all-LED illumination including the headlights and a full suite of autonomous driving hardware comprising eight cameras, 12 ultrasonic sensors and a front-facing radar used for the autonomous emergency braking and other collision avoidance systems.

During the reveal presentation, Mr Musk showed the side-impact pole test of a Volvo S60 beside that of a Model 3, with the Swedish car visibly allowing further penetration into the passenger compartment than the Tesla.

“I think it is obvious which car you would prefer to be in, in an accident,” Mr Musk said.

Eighteen-inch alloy wheels are standard, with 19-inch items costing $US1500 more. Five of the six available paint finishes are $US1000 extra, the only standard shade being Solid Black.

A $US5000 Premium Upgrade pack replaces the cloth upholstery with unspecified premium materials, adds open pore wood trim, electric steering column, door mirror and 12-way front seat adjustment with memory, an audio system upgrade, LED foglights, a lid for the centre console storage area including two smartphone docks, a tinted glass roof with UV and infrared insulation, heated front seats and a pair or USB ports for rear passengers.

Enhanced Autopilot costs $US5000, comprising adaptive cruise control, auto lane changing, motorway interchange merging capability and self-parking. This system is constantly upgraded using over-the-air software updates.

For another $3000 on top of that the Model3 will have full self-driving capability once the necessary software validation and regulatory approval in the customer’s jurisdiction are achieved.

The Model 3 seats five and has 424 litres of luggage capacity within its 4694mm length, 1933mm width and 1422mm height. The wheelbase is 2875mm.

For comparison, Australia’s best-selling compact executive sedan, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, is exactly the same height but 8mm shorter (on a 35mm smaller wheelbase) and 87mm wider, with a 480L boot.

The base Model 3 weighs 1610kg, while the long-range version adds 120kg on top of that. A Mercedes-Benz C200 weighs 1465kg.

Charging the standard Model 3 battery happens at a rate of 209km every 30 minutes using a Tesla Supercharger, or 48km every hour using a 32-amp home charger.

The bigger battery can accept charge more quickly, gaining 273km of range every 30 minutes using a Supercharger or 59.5km every hour at home.

Streamed live from Tesla’s Fremont factory in California, with a video link to the Gigafactory battery and drivetrain production facility in Nevada, the Model 3 production reveal and handover was performed in front of an audience made up of Tesla employees.

Before Mr Musk took to the stage with an opening speech full of praise for his team, a number of introductory presentations by Tesla team members were made outside both Fremont and the Gigafactory.

Reports of workplace relations issues and safety concerns at Fremont have been a source of negative publicity for Tesla since late last year, culminating in the replacement of human resources head Arnnon Geshuri with Gaby Toledano in May, who took on a broader role with greater influence over workplace conditions.

Mr Geshuri’s departure followed that of two other Tesla human resources executives, engineering HR director Mark Lipscomb and vice president of HR Jennifer Kim.

Describing Model 3 production ramp-up over the coming months as “a major challenge,” Mr Musk admitted the company “going to be in production hell … for at least six months, maybe longer”.

“Welcome to production hell,” he joked with the assembled employees.

“But you guys know that, you’re veterans, you’ve been through this so I look forward to working alongside your journey through hell – and as the saying goes, if you’re going through hell, keep going.”

Mr Musk said the company’s initial production target is 5000 cars per week, with the hope Tesla could almost double that by the end of next year.

His stated goal for the Fremont factory was “half a million Model 3s and about 100,000 combined S and X vehicles, maybe more if we can do it”.

“We’re building the cars as fast as we can, I’m going to drive this ramp as hard as we can,” he said, with the caveat that production can only go as fast as the “slowest or unluckiest” of the 10,000 unique components that go into a Model 3.

According to Mr Musk, around two-thirds of the Model 3 components are sourced from North America – including Tesla’s own Gigafactory in Nevada – with the remainder imported from the rest of the world.

“Almost anything that goes wrong, if we haven’t buffered the supply chain we’ll interrupt the production progress,” he said.

Of the 50 production Model 3s made in July, Tesla will keep 20 as engineering validation vehicles, with the rest already handed over to the 30 first employee customers.

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