The Tesla electric vehicle has been compared to an Apple iPhone on wheels. Judging by the turn-out for registrations for the new Tesla model, at least their marketing success in on a par.
This morning, the opportunity to be the first in the world to slap down a $A1,500 deposit and make a reservation for Tesla Motor’s new mass market Model 3 attracted queues of more than 100 people in both Sydney and Melbourne – even though they have yet to see what the new model looks like.
The first to register was a chap named Andreas Stephens, who took a camp chair to Tesla’s sales office in the Sydney suburb of St Leonards on Tuesday morning to make sure he was the first in the world to register.
A Tesla spokesman confirmed that Stephens was indeed the first and said that “more than 100 people” had queued in each of Sydney and Melbourne. He said Tesla would not reveal total registration numbers.
Tesla is due to release its Model 3 in another glittering and heavily promoted event in Los Angeles on Thursday night (Friday afternoon Sydney time).
The Model 3 is expected to be priced at less than one half of that of the high performance Model S, and the vulcan-winged electric SUV dubbed the Model X. The Model 3 is expected to sell in the US for $US35,000, but local tax incentives could bring this price down by one quarter.
Even though Stephens queued for two days for the honour of being the first to register, he won’t be the first to receive a Model 3 vehicle. That’s because production and sales will begin on the west coast of the US in late 2017, and probably won’t be available in Australia until early next year.
According to this report, Stephens expects the Model 3 to cost between $A60,000 and $A70,000, including the cost of making it right-hand drive. “Stephens is not a big car enthusiast,” the report said. “He still drives a 22-year-old Toyota Corolla. He became interested in Tesla because his son could never stop talking about Elon Musk.”
Earlier this week, Simon Hackett, the IT entrepreneur and self-confessed “number one fan” of Tesla vehicles in Australia said he would be ordering a Model 3. He already has a number of Model S EVs, a Tesla Roadster, and a Model X on order.
Hackett said he was not fazed by the fact that the model was not yet released. “Tesla makes the most impressive vehicles in the world, I’m absolutely sure this one’s not going to be an exception, especially if they want to sell 10 times as many of them.”
Musk says that the Model 3 will be the car that takes electric vehicle into the “mainstream.” It is expected to look similar to the Model S, but will have a smaller range, some 200 miles (330kms).
Analysts say there is a lot riding on the success of the Model 3, particularly for Tesla Motors, which is yet to turn a profit.
RBC Capital Markets auto analyst Joseph Spak told the Wall Street Journal that Tesla will have to make “compromises” to achieve high volumes, but “we doubt technology will be one of them.” Spak said the vehicle could have semiautonomous driving technology.
Morgan Stanley auto analyst Adam Jonas told WSJ that said the Model 3 will have acceleration and handling characteristics on par with BMWs, and come in various configurations.
“We expect the Model 3 range will include a variety of body styles including a four-door sedan, coupe, cabriolet, small SUV and other passenger configurations,” he told WSJ.
Musk is hoping that the Model 3 will help the company reach annual sales of 500,000 EVs by 2020. The Model 3 will compete with new mass-market EVs from GM and Nissan.
Giles Parkinson is a journalist of 30 years experience, a former Business Editor and Deputy Editor of the Financial Review, a columnist for The Bulletin magazine and The Australian, and the former editor of Climate Spectator.