In the history of the automobile, this is definitely something we haven't seen before. Tesla has lifted the veil on its most important undertaking: the Model 3, a $35,000 (NZ$50,000) car designed to bring electric vehicles and autonomous driving to the masses. By the looks of it, and the interest it's attracting, it just might succeed.
On Thursday, Tesla raked in 134,000 reservations, each with a $1,000 deposit. And that was before most people saw the car.
A little perspective on those numbers: There are now more reservations for the Model 3 than total sales of all previous Tesla cars combined. If the refundable deposits turn into deliveries, this would represent a $6 billion launch.
Here are some of the features Tesla disclosed at its big event in California:
• The base Model 3 goes from zero to 60 mph in less than 6 seconds. That's faster than the entry BMW 3 Series and the Mercedes-Benz S Class, the leading cars in the compact luxury space.
• The car will be able to drive a minimum of 215 miles on a single charge, with options to upgrade to a bigger battery. Tesla Chairman Elon Musk said the company will push for an even longer range on the base model between now and the car's first deliveries.
• The roof is an almost continuous sheet of glass that stretches from the front of the car to the rear to give riders a sense of openness. The layered glass is designed to block UV rays and manage heat.
• All cars will come equipped with the hardware for Tesla's Autopilot features and high-speed Supercharging.
• The Model 3 will have two trunks and more cargo space than any car of its size. A seven-foot surf board will fit inside the car, Musk said.
• The body is made of a mix of lightweight aluminum and cheaper steel, primarily the latter.
• Tesla's signature touch-screen control panel will be flipped on its side and shrunk from 17 inches to 15 inches. It handles everything from navigation to speed.
• The traditional instrument panel under the dash is gone entirely.
• The car is designed to fit five adults comfortably, in part by pushing the front passengers forward to provide more legroom in the back seat.
• Rear-wheel drive is standard, with an option for dual-motor all-wheel drive.
• The number of Tesla's high-speed charging stations will double by the end of next year to 7,200. Slower destination chargers will jump from 3,689 to 15,000.
• Also by the end of 2017, the number of Tesla locations where people can buy or service cars will more than double to 441 worldwide.
At the unveiling, Musk focused on the features that come with the base $35,000 price of the car and said more options and upgrades will be revealed before the car goes into production next year. "You will not be able to buy a better car at $35,000." By the looks of it, he may be right.
Thought it would slow way down today, but Model 3 order count is now at 198k. Recommend ordering soon, as the wait time is growing rapidly.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 1, 2016
Definitely going to need to rethink production planning...— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 1, 2016