Teslas Cheaper, Still Above Promised Price
Teslas are cheaper now, with the base Model 3 dropping down to $38,990, or around $8,990 more than Elon Musk’s original promises for the car.
When the Model 3 came out, newspapers compared it favorably to the Chevy Bolt; it was theoretically cheaper than the Bolt’s $37,495, faster, and such. Sure, it didn’t have a real dashboard, but would you need it when running on AutoPilot?
It turned out, eventually, that AutoPilot was more gimmick than reality; the name indicated you could just tell the car to drive itself, and it is still happy to do so, though you may kill or be killed, since it’s still not ready for prime time. As for the “free” retrofitting of autonomous driving, well, keep on waiting, guys.
The Model 3 still has the best powertrain of any car in that price range, but the rest of the car has proven to be less than stellar in its reliability, and Musk’s periodic bursts of high production, timed to meet either Twitter promises or stock market analyst demands, have not helped quality much. It is, though, more attractive at a lower price—as is any car.
While Tesla remains the best-selling electric cars in America by a wide margin, Volkswagen has invested deeply in the technology, after the courts left it little choice, and will be a fairly major threat. While Volkswagen reliability has also not been stellar, overall, the company has deep pockets, many factories, and the Audi brand on its side. On the higher end, Jaguar is already competing, Maserati, Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, and many others are jumping in; Ford is prepping an electric Mustang; and GM is hardly going to sit on its hands (see aCarPlace’s “Prepare for a flood of electric cars”).
Keep the Model 3 promises in mind when looking at the Tesla pickup. The Model 3 was to start at around $30,000, and originally you simply couldn’t buy one for under $42,000; and the quoted range was for the upper model (that is, it was an option). Rivian has done similar gymnastics with its upcoming electric pickup (photo above), but Rivian provided the fine print, too. Musk is promising better handling than a Porsche 911, up to 500 miles of range, a price under $50,000, and greater capability and functionality than a Ford F-150. Will all of those come in the same truck, and will the $50,000 price tag ever actually be real? We’ll see, sooner or later, but in the meantime Musk has once again gained credit for being a “visionary” while copying someone else’s ideas.
Clark Westfield grew up fixing up and driving past-their-prime American cars, including various GM and Mopar V8s. He has ghostwritten auto news for the last few years, and lives in Farmingdale, New York.