Tesla Model 3: Mission accomplished, or is this just the beginning?

The Model 3 has sparked no shortage of watercooler discussions around the world, and that includes us.


Tesla's Model 3 is now officially released to the world, Musk meeting the self-imposed delivery deadline set years ago and, along the way, dispelling fears that the company's latest would be endlessly delayed like its predecessors, the Model S and Model X. But it's safe to say there's still plenty of skepticism out there across these great internets, and some dissenting opinions even among our own staff. Here are a few of our thoughts:

I was lucky enough to take a quick spin in the Model 3 ahead of its release, and here's the tl;dr: edition: I really dug it. You can read the extended version here. At this point there are two things I'm eager to see watch out, the first being reliability. There were a number of issues with the Model X after its launch, but with its simplified design and feature-set I have a feeling we won't see anywhere near that many issues with Model 3. The other thing? Consumer reaction. It's one thing to idolize a beautiful, futuristic car when it's being spun around on a stage and to make a $1,000 commitment to buying one. However, it's rather another thing to plunk down a further $34,000 and then live with it every day. I can't wait to review the car myself, but I'm especially eager to read everyone's impressions online.

-- Tim Stevens, Editor in Chief, Roadshow

The Model 3 is the entire roll of the dice for Tesla. Deliver high build quality while making 500,000 cars a year by the end of 2018 as promised and they will truly be the Apple of EV sector. Miss on either of those counts and Tesla could be at risk of becoming the TiVo of EVs -- the innovator who showed the way for legacy companies to beat them at their own game. Tesla has awoken the auto industry like no other company since Honda in the 1970s. Great laurels but they make a thorny seat if you rest.

-- Brian Cooley, Editor at large, Roadshow

Tesla Model 3 final production model unveiled

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We shouldn't be surprised that a new Tesla has made a positive first impression or has impressive performance. As the Model S and X have proven, they do an excellent job at this and are to be commended for it. The real questions will be:

  1. Can Tesla build the Model 3 with high quality and reliability? They've failed to do so far with the Model S and X.
  2. Can they do so in a timely fashion? There are hundreds of thousands of reservation holders.
  3. Can they scale their service network to maintain the fleet without a traditional dealership infrastructure? Their system already seemed overwhelmed before the Model 3 launched.
  4. Can they scale the Supercharger network quickly enough to avoid bottlenecks that upset customers?
  5. Can they make money on the Model 3 while accomplishing items 1-4?

-- Chris Paukert, Managing editor, Roadshow

Having driven the Chevy Bolt, VW e-Golf and Hyundai Ioniq Electric, I think electric cars are at a tipping point for mass adoption. That makes Tesla's timing for the Model 3 just about perfect. Electric cars are such a small segment of the automotive market that they don't compete as much as bolster each other's sales. Not that the Model 3 needs much help, as Tesla has captured the public imagination and racked up plenty of preorders. Tesla may have trouble producing enough cars to meet the car's demand, but the company got over its initial Model S production woes. I expect Model 3 production to ramp up in the next year, as Tesla solves the problems that will inevitably come up.

-- Wayne Cunningham, Managing Editor, Roadshow

The Model 3 is an impressive-looking car and should fit into the "affordable" price point that Elon Musk promised when it was originally announced, but the world and EV market has changed a lot since its announcement in May of 2016. With the launch of the Chevy Bolt EV and the new version of the Nissan Leaf on the way, which is rumored to have a range that'd rival the other two cars, the Model 3 has a lot to prove going forward.

-- Donovan Farnham, Social Media Editor, Roadshow

While I love the feeling of instant torque behind the wheel of an EV, it's hard for me to get excited about any of them until the infrastructure catches up. As an apartment dweller with no garage, I would need to rely on Tesla's Supercharging stations if I bought a Model 3. Currently the closest one to my apartment is nearly 20 miles away and there aren't any on my daily commute. There isn't even a Supercharger in San Francisco near Roadshow HQ, although the company plans to open three stations in the city by the end of the year. The Model 3 could cost thousands less but until I can juice up as easily as I can gas up, I'm not taking the bait.

-- Emme Hall, Reviews Editor, Roadshow

I am… hesitant, but optimistic. On the surface, the Model 3 delivers and impresses with its decent ride, interesting looks and proper electric drivetrain. But that's where my adulation slowly starts morphing into concern.

I am not entirely confident that Tesla will be able to meet the promises it laid out in terms of production ramp-up and estimated delivery dates. Tesla works hard, but it doesn't always meet its targets on time, and while this is a watershed moment for the company, its past experience in this arena doesn't exactly bolster my confidence much. After all, Tesla eventually wants to build more cars in a week than it has in whole years past.

The price also concerns me. $35,000 doesn't get you much, and the level of standard equipment found on other vehicles in that price range is much better than what you get here. You want 300+ miles of range? That'll be $9,000, please. You want any paint color other than black? $1,000. These add up quickly, and all of a sudden the hundreds of thousands of reservation holders for an "affordable" car are stuck staring down a $45,000+ car note.

-- Andrew Krok, Associate Editor, Roadshow

We're in the market for a new car, likely an EV, and the Model 3 is the leading contender. The performance, the range and Tesla's forward-thinking technology choices are are compelling -- as are the general EV advantages when it comes to low carbon emissions and low operating costs. The Model 3 is more affordable than the Model S and (with the $9,000 battery option) has better range than the Chevy Bolt. But I'm hesitant, given the Model 3's unknown quality is unproven and Tesla's sketchy track record there. I don't think Tesla fans give the plodding, living-in-the-past old-school carmakers enough credit for being able to manufacture vehicles at a mammoth scale and to a relatively high quality. Even if I decided to buy one tomorrow, I'd have to wait until the end of 2018, optimistically, to get it. And even with federal tax credits, a Model 3 effectively has a luxury-car price given the endless list of upsell options. Is silver paint really $1,000 more expensive than black?

-- Stephen Shankland, Senior Writer, CNET News

I knew I'd be in the market for an electric car around the end of 2017, so I put a deposit down on the Model 3 sight unseen on 3/31/16 before the unveil event. Now that we've been presented with all of the car's final details, I'm more committed than ever, but I'll definitely be watching closely to make sure Tesla fulfills its promises on service and Supercharger expansion. I'm the perfect target for the Model 3: a middle-class, casual car enthusiast who's in the market for an upgrade to an electric vehicle. I'm lucky to have preordered early enough to get the maximum tax credit, which makes my First Production Model 3 purchase possible. I'm very curious how Model 3 sells once that tax credit is exhausted — at that point (somewhere around Q4 2018), there will be a lot more competition, and I don't foresee people like my parents feeling too thrilled about paying $1,000 extra for non-black paint.

I think if Tesla can make early Model 3 adopters evangelize their car to friends and family, that's a job well done (think Apple and the iPhone's early adopters). But only time will tell on that — not to mention I'll need an actual car to make a proper judgment — so hurry up and make my car, Tesla!

-- Ashley Esqueda, Senior Editor, CNET

Tim Stevens Former editor at large for CNET Cars
Tim Stevens got his start writing professionally while still in school in the mid '90s, and since then has covered topics ranging from business process management to video game development to automotive technology.
Tim Stevens
Tim Stevens got his start writing professionally while still in school in the mid '90s, and since then has covered topics ranging from business process management to video game development to automotive technology.

Article updated on August 2, 2017 at 7:52 AM PDT

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Tim Stevens Former editor at large for CNET Cars
Tim Stevens got his start writing professionally while still in school in the mid '90s, and since then has covered topics ranging from business process management to video game development to automotive technology.
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