In a little less than a year, we will get our first look at the Tesla Model III, the $35,000 200-mile electric sedan that Elon Musk has bet most of his fortune on. We have no idea what it will look like, exactly how big the battery pack will be, or really anything else. But if Elon Musk is to be believed, March 2016 is the date the Tesla Model III will be revealed to the world it hopes to change for the better.
Here’s a summary of what we know about the Tesla Model III so far, beyond the $35,000 price and 200-mile “real world” range. For one, that price tag is before any government incentives, and it’s also likely that the body will be made mostly from steel, as opposed to the aluminum used in the Model S. The battery pack will be about 20% smaller than the one in the Model S, which should put it in the 48 to 56 kWh range, and Musk has repeteadly targeted the BMW 3 Series as a main competitor. Considering that all Teslas now come with the Dual Motor Drive, I feel safe in saying that the Model III will likely be all-wheel drive as well.
As far as what it will look like though, all Musk has said is that it won’t look like the Model S. Besides a few decent renderings though, the only people who have an idea of what the Model III looks like all work for Tesla in some capacity or another.
Musk revealed the date in Tesla’s quarterly earnings call, where high capital expansion led to a $154 million GAAP loss, despite Tesla raking in $51 million of ZEV credits. The lean-running operation is expanding rapidly despite setbacks in China, though Musk has hinted that Tesla may fall short of his ambitious goal to hit 55,000 sales in 2015, despite a tremendous backlog of Model X orders. Again, Musk is setting some pretty ambitious goal posts, but with 10,045 sales of the Model S in the past quarter, Musk and crew still have a ways to go to meet the 55,000 mark.
As for the Model III, Musk admits that production likely won’t begin until “late 2017” at the soonest, even though Tesla obviously wants to get its mass market EV out ASAP. GM is also aiming for a late 2017 start of production for its own 200-mile EV, the Chevy Bolt, and a new Nissan LEAF with 150 miles of range per charge should be debuting in the next few months.
For all the buzz the Model III has generated, there are some real rivals on the horizon that could put a big crimp in Elon Musk’s ambitious goals.
But if the Model III is as much of a hit as the Model S has been, Tesla and Musk could go from niche player to major manufacturer in the span of years, rather than decades.