Tesla Model 3 to debut on 31 March 2016

11 Feb, 2016 10:00am Steve Fowler

Tesla's all-electric BMW 3 Series rival, the Model 3, will be revealed in March but Tesla won't "show everything"

We’ll soon get our first look at the new Tesla Model 3, but it won't be at the Geneva Motor Show as we previously thought. A letter about Tesla's financial results has confirmed that we'll see the car for the first time on 31 March 2016, ahead of production in 2017. 

Telsa boss Elon Musk has also said today that orders will open online the next day, or the same day if you go into one of the brand's US stores. 

However, speaking previously at a special event at Tesla’s base in Chambourcy, France, Musk hinted at a staggered unveiling for the Model 3 similar to that which we saw for the Model X SUV. “The first pictures of the Model 3 will be end of March” Musk said. “I am being a little coy here, we are not gonna show everything about the Model 3 until a lot closer to production time.” 

With Model 3 production due to start in 2017. This could mean that we have longer to wait  before getting an unrestricted look at the Tesla Model 3 production car.

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Tesla’s third model, revealed exclusively to Auto Express by Elon Musk as being named Model 3, could make its world debut in Europe - the home of the Model 3’s chief rivals the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class, Audi A4 and Jaguar XE. But Musk’s words would appear to indicate that the March event will reveal a pre-production prototype rather than the final version.

Although we’ll get first sight of the new First Model 3 next year, first deliveries are not expected to be until Mid 2017. Power for the Model 3 will come from batteries produced in Tesla’s new gigafactory, which will go on stream in Nevada later this year.

While no technical details of the Model 3 will be announced until the reveal event, we’d expect it to have a level of performance that would at least match BMW’s M3 and M4 supercars. With the recently-announced Ludicrous upgrade to the Model S allowing that car to get from 0-60mph in 2.8 seconds, we’d expect that the Model 3 will offer straight line performance to rival the M3’s 0-62mph time of 4.1 seconds.

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Although the Model 3 might not get the S’s latest 90 kWh battery, the combination of a further two year’s development of battery technology and a smaller, lighter, more aero efficient bodyshell should enable the Model 3 to claim bragging rights in a 0-60mph shootout against rivals. The chances are it will be able to go almost as far on a full charge as an M3 could on a full tank of fuel – the M3 has a theoretical range of 423 miles.
Tesla has also confirmed that a UK R&D base is still on the cards, although not quite a soon as planned. A European factory is also a possibility, with a spokesman confirming that Teslas are more than likely when the Model 3 is on stream and the company works towards mass market-levels of production.

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Tesla Model 3 name revealed

Back in 2014, Elon Musk, the CEO and founder of electric car brand Telsa, exclusively revealed a new electric BMW 3 Series rival, called the Tesla Model 3, to Auto Express. We had heard some talk about a Tesla Gen III model named 'Model E', but Musk told us exclusively what the name of the new car was - and why it had to be changed.

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“We had the model S for sedan and X for crossover SUV, then a friend asked what we were going to call the third car,” Musk told us. “So I said we had the model S and X, we might as well have the E.

“We were going to call it model E for a while and then Ford sued us saying it wanted to use the Model E – I thought this is crazy, Ford’s trying to kill sex! So we’ll have to think of another name.

“The new model is going to be called Model 3, we’ll have three bars to represent it and it’ll be S III X!”

• Full interview with Elon Musk: Telsa boss talks EVs with 500-mile range, plus a colony on Mars

A cut-down version of the Model S and Model X platform is unlikely - it'll probably sit on its own, smaller chassis type. The new technology will be the brainchild of Tesla’s British engineering chief Chris Porritt, who used to work with Aston Martin.

Tesla: UK research and development base plans

Musk announced on his recent trip to the UK that he planned to set up a research and development base over here and it could be up and running in time to feed into the Model 3 project.

The new car is rumoured to be about 20% smaller than the Model S and our image shows how it could look. Key to the new model, which Musk said should retail for around $35,000 (likely to equate to around £30,000 in the UK), is cheaper battery technology made possible by Tesla’s forthcoming Gigafactory.

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This new plant will produce batteries for all Tesla models, plus customers (rumoured to include Mercedes and Nissan) and a stationary storage programme to store energy from solar and wind farms. A decision on the location of the new Gigafactory is imminent, with US states Nevada, Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas all in the running.

Tesla Model 3: realistic range of over 200 miles

Musk has also confirmed that he expected the new car to have a realistic range of over 200 miles with strong performance, like the Model S. “We want people to fall in love with their car and look forward to driving it,” he told us.

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As with the Model S and the upcoming Model X, the Model 3 will come with free use of Tesla’s Supercharger network, which Musk said will enable Tesla owners to drive the length and breadth of the UK by the end of 2015. And if you want to buy a Tesla, you have to buy it direct from one of the company’s own retailers rather than through a traditional dealer.

It’s a recipe that’s obviously working – Musk plans to sell around 35,000 cars this year, but the Model III is likely to propel sales well into six figures by the end of this decade.

What do you think of Tesla's plan to break into the compact executive car market with the Model 3? Can it succeed where so many have failed? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below or join the debate on Twitter and Facebook