Tesla goes mainstream with Model 3

The unveiling of Tesla’s latest car signals the company’s intention to make its cars a common sight on American roads

Priced at $35,000 (just $2,000 more than the average purchase price for a car in the US), the Model 3 is Tesla's first attempt to take its electric vehicles mainstream

More than 115,000 pre-order reservations rolled in overnight after Tesla unveiled the latest in its line of electric vehicles. The new Model 3 is the company’s cheapest to date; at $35,000 – not including federal and state government support – is less than half the price of any of its previous entries and underlines the company’s ambition to take its products mainstream.

Tesla has pledged to double the number of stores and Supercharger stations by the time of the car’s release

The S and X Models have only limited appeal and are marketed mostly as luxury – albeit functional – products for a relatively niche audience. The launch of the Model 3, meanwhile, offers proof of Tesla’s intentions to create a high-volume product, and one that could at last cement the company’s reputation as a staple of the auto industry. Should it do so successfully, the company will have triumphed where others have failed – most notably Fisker Automotive, which in 2008 was beset with software failures and ultimately succumbed to spiralling prices.

The average purchase price for a car in the US right now is around $33,000, which again underlines the company’s newfound focus on affordability. According to the company site, the Model 3 “combines real world range, performance, safety and spaciousness into a premium saloon that only Tesla can build”.

Elon Musk stated at the product’s unveiling that a lower-priced vehicle was always his intention. “We needed to figure out how we, as a tiny company with very few resources, could make a difference”, he said. The company has also pledged to double the number of stores and Supercharger stations by the time of the car’s release late next year, and install thousands more of its destination charger stations.

Tesla’s Model S saloon outsold Nissan’s Leaf last year to become the world’s best-selling electric vehicle, and its dominance looks only to continue once production reaches its target of 500,000 cars a year. “Unless there’s an affordable car, we will only have a small impact on the world”, Musk told the BBC. “We need to make a car that most people can afford in order to have a substantial impact. If we could have made an affordable car straight off the bat we definitely would have, it’s just that it takes time to refine the technology.”