Why the Tesla Model 3 is extremely significant

Words by Afzal Rawuther

You won’t be able to get your hands on a Tesla Model 3 before 2019, if you aren’t in the waitlist yet. It was unfathomable a while back that you’d have to wait for a year and a half for a car that cost 35,000 USD (Rs. 22 lakh approx. excluding taxes). It’s a common man’s car in the USA and most of Europe and its now threatening to be the very best at that. Not too many times in the history of the automobile has there been a time when the entire landscape of motoring stands on the cusp of a huge and probably irreversible transition. The Tesla Model 3 is a revelation. It has pushed the boundaries of what’s possible and now the grand old automotive companies are forced to come to terms with the fast, relentless pursuit of innovation and excellence that Tesla has exhibited and their own lethargic progress in the face of it.

There are now around half a million reservations for the Tesla Model 3; reservations for a car they hadn’t seen, a car they still haven’t driven and a car they knew absolutely nothing about apart from the expected price. This speaks volumes about the trust people have in Tesla and by extension in Elon Musk. 500,000 bookings just on a Company’s promise. I don’t recall another instance in the past couple of decades or so that would even come close to this.

The Tesla Model 3 is now slated to be among the most consequential cars of this generation. It has realigned the expectations of consumers to what manufacturers can actually provide in their cars instead of them being reliant on what the manufacturers were willing to provide. No other similarly priced car even comes close to what the Tesla Model 3 offers. And this is a segment dominated by the likes of the Audi A4, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class  and the BMW 3 series.

The wraps were taken of the Tesla Model 3 during a handover ceremony for Tesla employees. They would be the first ones to get delivery of the Model 3. For the first time, the performance numbers have been announced and they are incredible for such a car although widely expected to be so. The car accelerates from 0 to 100kmph in 5.6 secs and that is for the base model. Tesla claims a range of over 350kms while being able to seat five adults in relative comfort.

The Tesla Model S now sells in greater numbers than the Mercedes Benz S-Class in the USA, a car once known as the best car in the world. This signifies a shift in the pecking order of the automotive industry. Tesla is no longer the underdog that it was a few years back and that is evident in the way it is approaching the development and design of its cars, taking bold new strides in terms of design and functionality. The Tesla Model 3 is a car that borrows heavily from the Model S. The exterior styling closely resembles that of the Model S albeit everything is of smaller proportions. The boot witnesses probably the biggest departure from the Model S, with there being a conventional boot instead of the hatchback seen on the Model S. Take a look inside and you are startled at the cleanness of the look of the cabin. It is minimalism at its best with most of the controls now housed in the 15-inch central touch screen. Buttons are not entirely conspicuous in their absence. All this results in a cabin that is uncluttered to say the least. The minimalist design both inside and out certainly impresses with its sleek elegance.

The minimalism isn’t just a design choice. Making the car as simple as possible was a necessity to ensure there aren’t any nightmares in production. Even the drivetrain is as simple as possible, with the car only being available for now in a single motor RWD configuration. All these decisions, Elon Musk admits, were to ensure that the Model 3 would make it into production on time.

However, there is one part of the car that hasn’t received any cutbacks – autonomous driving. The car receives all the sensors, equipment and software necessary for full autonomous driving. An OTA update will be installed in the cars when Tesla decides that the cars and the technology are ready for fully autonomous driving.

Right-hand drive production would only begin in 2019 and so it would be wishful thinking to expect it on Indian shores anytime soon. Back in 2012, an electric car was nothing more than a proclamation of your beliefs. It was a car for celebrities who wanted to announce their eco-friendly credentials. And it was still ugly and non-functional. So ugly that even the celebrities soon discarded their electric cars. Tesla arrived and changed everything about the industry. They made a car that was an object of desire; an electric car that was for the first time sexy and still usable every day. It is a company that is helping cut down on greenhouse gases by making a product that people are willing to buy over its gasoline counterparts. That in itself is incredibly remarkable. And at the end of the day if this helps bring pollution down, not too many people would mind, I am sure.

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