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Tesla Model 3: The first electric car to go mainstream?

Tesla Motors CEO and founded Elon Musk must be one happy chappy because the launch of its ‘affordable’ all-electric car has resulted in pre-order figures far beyond expectations.

In a week since its grand unveiling, Tesla Motors said it had received more than 325,000 Model 3 reservations, which it says is equal to ‘about’ US$14 billion in ‘implied future sales’.

Musk said almost half of the reservations, which cost US$1,000 each and are refundable, were put down before the car was even unveiled. Just two per cent, meanwhile, reserved more than one car, suggesting low levels of speculation and buyers who want to make a quick buck with a resale.

The main focus now, besides ironing out any Model 3 creases, will be ramping up production to such a considerable level. Until now, Tesla has struggled to ship more than 2,400 Model X cars in a quarter. Now it potentially needs to hit half a million a year.

It is impossible to say how many of the 325,000-odd interested motorists will actually pull the trigger when it’s time to spec a car and put their money where their mouth is, but the figure is astonishing given the relatively low (but growing) uptake of electric cars worldwide thus far.

In fact, it’s even more interesting when you consider Tesla has paid absolutely nothing in marketing and advertising. This is word of mouth and excitement off the back of the Model S and Model X seven-seater sports utility vehicle.

The Tesla team said in an official statement on its blog: “Unlike other major product launches, we haven’t advertised or paid for any endorsements.

“Instead, this has been a true grassroots effort driven by the passion of the Tesla team that’s worked so hard to get to this point and our current and future customers who believe so strongly in what we are trying to achieve.”

Besides keeping shareholders happy, Tesla highlighted the push towards electric vehicles: “Most importantly, we are all taking a huge step towards a better future by accelerating the transition to sustainable transportation.”

The Tesla Model 3 promises a range of at least 215 miles on a single charge, which is significantly less than the 285-plus miles you can get from a Model S but still ahead of much of the competition and impressive for US$35,000.

All Model 3 cars will come with the self-driving Autopilot features such as lane assist, in addition to rear-wheel drive (drift fun, anyone?), considerable legroom (apparently the 6ft5 club will be catered for), seating for five adults and a 0-60mph time of under six seconds.

The launch wasn’t without a few hitches. For starters, there have been complaints about the small trunk, which has lead to Musk admitting it will be revised before deliveries begin in late 2017.

Critics have also expressed dislike at the front end design, which is said to spoil an otherwise elegant design, again leading to Musk saying it may be changed.

Having driven the Model S extensively, we can appreciate why its owners usually fall in love with the thing and why eco-minded and penny-conscious motorists have been waiting for something with the same pizzazz but at a more affordable price point.

Perhaps it’s more than that, though. Given the choice between buying a BMW 3 Series or Ford Mondeo and having to fill it up every week or plugging something in at home for £5 to £10 of electric per charge, what would you choose? Most of us rarely drive more than 100 miles in a single journey.

Run US$35,000 through a currency converter and you end up with £25,000, but we are going to bet the Model 3 will come in at around £30,000 for the base model – and considerably more if you want the faster all-wheel drive version.

While we wait for an official UK price and specification, here’s a Qantas plane racing against a Model S racing running in its fastest ‘Ludicrous‘ drive mode, which was actually designed for tackling snow.

Video: Tesla vs Qantas

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