After years of hype Tesla has released its Model 3, a car it hopes will take it from a fledgling maker of low volume, high priced electric cars to a more serious luxury player with a volume-selling mid-sizer.
The make-or-break mid-sized electric car will sell from about $50,000 and compete with the cream of the luxury crop, including the dominant BMW 3-Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4.
Key to its sales pitch is superior performance to similarly-priced rivals and some of the most advanced semi-autonomous technology currently available.
All Model 3s come with Tesla's Auto Pilot hardware, which the company claims will one day allow for full autonomy – once the software has been developed and authorities approve its use.
And, of course, the lure of never having to pay for fuel again.
Going fast every day
The key to the Tesla sales pitch is all the pros of an electric car (never having to refuel, lower running costs, etc) without the cons (being limited in how far you can drive it being the main one).
The Model 3 is no different.
As well as being popular with pre-orders – Tesla claims it has accepted deposits on upwards of 400,000 cars – the Model 3 is brisk by $50K car standards.
Claimed to reach 60 miles an hour (96km/h) in as little as 5.1 seconds, it is closer to Porsche performance than the BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes it is targeting.
Your choice of models
Tesla will initially offer two Model 3s – the Standard and Long Range.
The Standard is claimed to reach 96km/h in 5.6 seconds and travel 355km on a charge.
The Long Range does 0-96km/h in 5.1 seconds and travels a claimed 530km on a charge.
Hold your horses…
Yes, the first Model 3s have been delivered to customers, but only in America.
Australia is a long way down a long queue of customers eager to try the most affordable model yet from the Californian car maker. At best the Model 3 will arrive in Australia late in 2018.
That's because Tesla will focus on other markets first before ramping up production for smaller countries such as Australia.
As for demand, Tesla's Australian four dealers (or "stores", as the company prefers to call them) are understood to have well over 1000 deposits, each for $1500.
Of course, not all of those "reservations" will go on to buy a car, but the queue is likely to grow now that the car has been revealed.
Charge it up
Owning a Model 3 means you won't have to visit a service station - but you will spend plenty of time plugging into charging stations.
Tesla has a supercharger network of 12 stations that extends from Melbourne to Brisbane. Each can deliver about 270km of charge in half an hour.
Tesla occasionally offers referral deals that include free charging or you can pay – but much less than you'd spend on fuel.
There are also hundreds of "destination chargers" everywhere from restaurants and hotels to ski resorts.
And, of course, you can charge at home.
Tesla doesn't talk sales figures, at least for individual markets.
But recent recall notices – each of which lists the individual identification numbers of cars being recalled – suggests the company is selling something like 1000 cars annually in Australia.
Best guesses, then, would suggest Tesla could sell a few thousand Model 3s each year in Australia.
To put that in perspective, the country's top selling luxury car – the Mercedes-Benz C-Class – usually notches up about 6000 a year, sometimes more.
However, despite a more appealing price tag than the $100K-plus Model S and Model X currently on sale, the Model 3 will likely come under more intense consumer scrutiny.
Rather than the fanatics that cheer and chant company boss Elon Musk, Tesla will be selling to people who may not be as likely to overlook some of the shortfalls of the brand, the most obvious of which is quality.
That said, electric competition is heating up.
General Motors already has the award winning Bolt in the US – and Volkswagen has committed to a heavily electrified future.
European car makers, in particular, have committed to many more electric cars, ramping up production from about 2019.
Chicken and the (electric) egg
To some extent there's been a chicken and egg game as car makers await the interest of buyers and governments, the latter key to incentives and infrastructure that have seen electric sales take off in countries such as Norway.
But with recent announcements by France and the UK to ban petrol and diesel cars by 2040 it provides an incentive to start building more electric cars.
Theoretically that competition is welcomed by Tesla, which says it is all about speeding up the transition to sustainability.
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