August 8: The headline and lead paragraph on this post have been revised to reflect a reader comment.
Tesla has begun delivering the first few dozen units of its long-anticipated Model 3 electric car, but it’s just barely the US$35,000 “mass-market” EV the company has been promising for years.
“Before the rollout event, Tesla had released few details about the pricing structure of its new car, noting that it would start at $35,000 and that people would be able to customize some features,” the Washington Post reports. “A variety of customizations, such as motor options, greater battery life, enhanced autopilot, and larger wheels, could push the Model 3’s price well above $40,000.” And at that cost, “the Model 3 would soar past the price of the average new car sold in the United States, as well as any vehicle that might be considered mass-market.”
Electrek reports that the “standard battery” version of the Model 3 will indeed start at $35,000, offering 220 miles of battery range, 0 to 60 mile per hour acceleration in 5.6 seconds, and a 50- to 55-kilowatt-hour battery. The “long-range battery” version will start at $44,000, with 310 miles of range and a 70- to 75-kWh battery.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk “said the ‘standard’ version will not be available until the fall, as they will focus on producing the bigger battery pack in order to simplify the production process,” Electrek notes. When it’s available, options for that model include the longer-range battery for $9,000, enhanced autopilot and a premium upgrades package for $5,000 each—and a $1,000 Model T-style surcharge to receive the car in any colour but black.
“The average transaction price for a new car is about $36,000,” said executive analyst Rebecca Lindland of Kelley Blue Book. “That’s the sweet spot that new car buyers can afford,” and it means Tesla will still be counting on “early adopters” to build a market for the Model 3, which has attracted a half-million reservations from interested customers.
“I think a lot of folks will be leasing the Model 3,” said Bankrate.com analyst Claes Bell. “In the U.S., the median household income is $56,516. At that income, a lot of folks are going to have a hard time affording a vehicle around $30,000 in price, much less anything higher.”