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Tesla unveils Model 3

Blind faith: Queues of eager Model 3 customers were a common sight outside Tesla stores around the world, with 115,000 people placing deposits well before the car had even been revealed.

Entry-level Tesla Model 3 EV racks up 115,000 global pre-orders sight unseen

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Tesla logo1 Apr 2016

MORE than 115,000 people around the world placed deposits for Tesla’s hotly anticipated Model 3 volume-seller sight unseen in the 24-hour run-up to this afternoon’s reveal event at the electric vehicle specialist’s design studio in Hawthorne, California.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced the Model 3 will be priced from $US35,000 ($A45,767) in the United States when US deliveries commence next year, have a full-charge battery range of 346 kilometres and promised that even the least powerful variant will be capable of 0-100km/h in less than six seconds.

An Australian launch is not expected until 2018 and local pricing is yet to be determined, but considering Aussies pay a 42 per cent premium for an entry level Model S 70D compared with customers in the US at current exchange rates and around 15 per cent of the total Model S price is Luxury Car Tax, the baby Tesla could arrive here in the region of $55,000-$60,000 for the base variant.

This would, as expected, put the Model 3 in direct competition with the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

Styling of the Model 3 is typical Tesla, but the evolution from the grille-like front panel of the Model S to the slimmer intake of the Model X SUV has continued to a rather confronting, bluff grille-free front fascia.

Its side profile is more truncated than the swoopy Model S but less upright than the Model X, with a fastback roofline and bustle-like boot-lip forming an overall effect similar to a Porsche Panamera crossed with a BMW 3 Series GT.

Tesla’s party-piece flush doorhandles have taken on more of a hockey stick shape and inside, the trademark oversized portrait-oriented touchscreen is replaced with a landscape unit that sits proud of the dash like a computer monitor and is very thin in side-profile.

Mr Musk said the Model 3 would come standard with active safety systems across the range, including the hardware necessary to operate the Autopilot hands-free autonomous system that made its debut on the Model S last year.

He also said the company’s aim was for the Model 3 to rate five stars in every crash-test safety category and that its standard equipment levels, even in base trim, would exceed that of other vehicles in the same size and price category.

Access to Tesla’s growing global network of Supercharger fast-charging stations will also be standard.

Like the Model S and Model X, the Model 3 has front and rear luggage compartments, providing “more cargo capacity than any gasoline (car) of the same external dimensions” and Mr Musk confirmed that a seven-foot surfboard will fit inside.

Emphasising that the Model 3 will accommodate five adults “comfortably”, Mr Musk explained that to maximise the passenger compartment, the dashboard area had been “compressed” and the front seats located further forward, providing plenty of legroom front and rear, while a single-pane rear glass roof was claimed to provide “amazing headroom and a feeling of openness”.

Some commentators have raised concerns over whether Tesla has the production capacity to meet the volume requirements of a car like the Model 3.

At the reveal event, Mr Musk addressed the issue by pointing out the Freemont factory, a former General Motors and Toyota production plant, had previously churned out almost 500,000 cars per year.

“We’re confident that Tesla can achieve that number in the future in terms of vehicle production,” he said. “So I think that’s going to be – I wouldn’t say straightforward – but very doable.”

Mr Musk explained that the limiting factor in producing high volumes of electric cars was global battery production capacity, but that this was to be addressed with its new Gigafactory in Nevada.

“In order to produce half a million cars a year, we would basically need the entire world’s lithium-ion (battery) production,” he said.

“That’s why we are building the Gigafactory. This is a vital element … It will produce more lithium-ion batteries than every factory in the world combined, in one location … it will also be building the most advanced battery and cell in the world.”

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