Tesla Tracker: Model 3 buyers want self-driving features and maximum range

Guest Blog Post: Charles Morris is the Senior Editor of Charged, the magazine of electric vehicles, for which he writes a daily blog and regular print articles. He's also written five books including Tesla Motors: How Elon Musk and Company Made Electric Cars Cool, and Sparked the Next Tech Revolution.

Paul Carter’s Model3Tracker* grew out of a tool he built to track Model X reservations on the Tesla Motors Club forum. It has grown to include over 6,000 Model 3 reservation holders. Here’s how it works: as a Tesla Model 3 reservation holder, you can register on the site and provide information including your location and how you intend to configure your Model 3. Using this data, Carter and his volunteer assistants, Tesla Motors Club members Darryl and Stretch2727, are able to present an overview of the revolutionary vehicle’s future owners, and identify interesting trends, especially concerning which options are most popular.

Above: Tesla Model 3 (Instagram: siliconvalleyteslas)

As George Gallup established in the 1930s, even a small sample of a population can yield surprisingly accurate insights about the whole. Model3Tracker’s 6,000 users represent about 1.5% of the 400,000 or so existing reservations, and Carter believes that it is “almost at a size of statistical significance.” As the database grows, he has found the overall trends to be quite stable.

Above: Tesla Model 3 insights culled from Model3Tracker*

Autonomy features seem to be in the most demand. Over 44% of the reservation holders tracked plan to opt for Enhanced Autopilot, and over 20% want full self-driving capability. Carter believes this number will probably grow, because many users created their records before self-driving capability was an option. Since Tesla announced the fully autonomous mode, many existing users have returned to the site and indicated that they want it. Another clear favorite is more range. Over 40% of members intend to order the larger battery option. About 11% want enhanced performance, and almost 9% want the ultimate thrill: Ludicrous Mode. Only about 7% plan to buy a bare-bones model with few or no options. 


Above: Nearly 60% of Model3Tracker* participants are U.S. reservation holders

Model3Tracker* is currently working on a way to predict an average selling price including options. Preliminary results indicate that existing Tesla owners are more likely to spend more on options than are first-time Tesla buyers (this makes sense, as the former are likely to be a wealthier group). Of course, no one knows what the options are going to cost at this point, but many are guessing (see video below). Musk has hinted that the company hopes to price some of the options lower than they were for the S and the X. Another unknown is whether options will be offered on an a la carte basis, or grouped into packages, which would simplify production. 


Above: One example of another Model 3 reservation holder who provides his own "guesstimates" speculating on possible pricing; Note: views expressed in this video are hypothetical and do not reflect POV of Model3Tracker* (Youtube: Shots of Jameson)

Placing a Model 3 order with Tesla requires giving only a contact email address along with your refundable deposit. Only once production begins will Tesla's Design Studio be opened, and reservation holders be able to choose their options and convert their reservations to actual orders. Model3Tracker* allows users to provide their home city, and their intended configuration, so the site has a wealth of self-reported information about reservation holders that even Tesla does not have. Carter has made this data available to Tesla, but he won’t say whether the company has yet taken advantage of any of it.

Above: Where Model 3 reservation holders are located (in blue) via Model3Tracker*

Most coverage of Model 3 centers around its mission of bringing the electric vehicle to the masses, but its autonomy features may prove even more revolutionary. Carter thinks (and other Tesla experts I’ve spoken to recently agree) that self-driving capability will prove to be incredibly popular, and that it will cause more disruption in the auto industry than anyone foresees. For every car lover who doesn’t want to give up the pleasure of driving, there will be more people who see self-driving as a way to turn commuting time into productive time.


Above: Tesla Model 3 in matte black (Instagram: robgclay)

Mr. Carter cites the example of a potential buyer that he met in his local Tesla store in Vancouver, who said, “The minute this car is capable of [self-driving], I will buy it, because I can now read and respond to e-mails while on my hour-long commute - that will make the difference as to whether I buy it.”


*Source: Model3Tracker