Those of us who were lucky enough to attend the Tesla Model 3 launch event last April all tell the same basic story—meeting old and new Tesla friends, the pre-launch party, Elon’s introduction, the media focus, and the excitement that permeated the room as Model 3 rolled onto the stage. The same goes for the demonstration drive—a beautiful exterior, a roomy interior, the amazing landscape display, and of course, the awesome performance and ride of the car itself. But you know all of that because since that night, millions of words have been written about the launch event, about the Model 3, and about the demonstration drive that all of us took.
Above: Starting the Tesla Model 3 launch event's demonstration drive (Source: © Kyle Field for CleanTechnica)
As the months pass, things have gone relatively quiet on the Model 3 front. Sure there’s a rumor here, some speculation about features functions there, but overall, it seems as if those on the reservation list and many in the automotive media have settled in for the long wait. That got me to thinking—is there an untold story that might be derived from the launch event and the demonstration drive that followed it? I think it might be summarized in a single word—expectations.
Above: Some brief reflections on the Tesla Model 3 demonstration drive
It’s likely that one or two thousand people, in total, have actually ridden in the Model 3. That lucky cohort (myself included) have experienced the look and feel of the vehicle up front and personal, we’ve felt the acceleration, the cornering, the overall performance, albeit briefly. But there are about ~400,000 reservation holders who have only experienced these things vicariously, by reading dozens or even hundreds of blog posts, web-based articles, and other social and mainstream media sources. Consciously or unconsciously, those reservation holders have established expectations about Model 3.
Above: Tesla just needs a percentage of its reservations to be delivered to dominate entry luxury class vehicles sold in the U.S. (Source: Bloomberg)
The challenge for Tesla is to manage those expectations over the next 15 months and at the same time, produce a vehicle that will meet them. That won’t be easy. Tesla has created a commendable aura that suggests high quality vehicles that offer breakthrough technology. Therefore, reservation holders will have two fundamental generic expectations: (1) Model 3 will be expected to be a high quality vehicle that does not suffer from repeated warranty-related trips back to service center, and (2) Model 3 will introduce unique technology that will wow the owner and everyone else who rides in the vehicle.
Above: Tesla Model 3 at launch event test track (Source: © Kyle Field for CleanTechnica)
In my view, Tesla’s most significant challenge is to achieve the first generic expectation—quality. This is the first time the company has produced a high-volume product, and it will have only one chance to get it right. It's a bit ironic, but, to paraphrase a very old Ford Motors commerical: For Tesla and its Model 3, Quality is Job #1.
Above: Performance characteristics like handling and acceleration were quite impressive during the demonstration drive (Source: © Kyle Field for CleanTechnica)
The technology expectation will be easier for Tesla to achieve. The landscape display, if properly populated with useful functionality, cool graphics, and an overall high tech aesthetic, will be enough to meet the generic expectation. If the company goes further, with some novel features, as I suggest in Getting Ready for Model 3*, the interior tech will be truly revolutionary. I have little doubt that Model 3 will meet or exceed the performance expectations. Even the base model will be quick at a sub 6 second 0 to 60 time. When a “performance suite” of options are added (similar to those used for the demonstration drive), Model 3 will instigate the “Tesla smile.”
Above: Comparing estimated 0-60 MPH times of Model 3 vs. some of it's likely competitors (Source: Bloomberg)
During the demonstration drive, all anyone saw was a prototype interior—very rough with hints of what was to come. I suspect that those on the reservation list expect an interior that is appointed in the same way as cars they already know, but with high tech touches (e.g., the landscape display) that distinguish it as a Tesla. My guess is that Tesla will offer a simple trim package with its base Model 3 and will offer trim upgrade options (e.g., real wood veneers, a center console, more or different cup holder arrangements) as well.
Overall, the expections of reservation holders will change as Tesla provides more information about Model 3 in the early part of 2017, but one thing is certain, the expection of high vehicle quality will remain unchanged as we approach the first production vehicles.
*For more in-depth information related to the demonstration drive and other Tesla Model 3 related topics, check out Getting Ready for Model 3