British-born Chris Porritt, Tesla’s vice president for engineering, told us the new small Tesla – expected to be revealed in 2016 for a 2017 launch, and hinted at in our exclusive images – is still in the early stages of development and that nothing is being ruled out.
“We don’t know what type of customer we’re trying to appeal to yet, but we want to speak to more customers… Lots of them!” he said. “We’ve got specific customers for Model S, we have an idea with Model X, but we need to appeal to more people with Model III.
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"We want this car to be £30,000 to £35,000 with derivatives which will appeal to all sorts of people. SUVs, estates – who knows?”
Achieving pricing targets will be crucial for the Model III, and Tesla’s future as a whole, Porritt explained: “The type of technology we have now is quite expensive. To enable us to sell Model III for a more cost-effective price, we need to take the cost of building it down as well.
“We’ve got to be more efficient in the way we build it and we will have to use more cost-effective materials and/or be cleverer with the materials we use.”
A new Gigafactory, based just outside Reno in Nevada, will allow Tesla to mass produce batteries at a cheaper rate, but maintain the extended range for which the larger, 5 Series-rivalling Model S has become famous. Expect a range of between 200 and 300 miles for the Model III compact electric saloon, while Tesla is aiming for a total volume of “well over 200,000 a year”.
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Beyond the Model III, Porritt was coy about a new sports car to replace the Tesla Roadster, but he didn’t rule it out. “We may do a Roadster or a sports car again, but at the moment we are on a trajectory to get more volume rather than focus on a specialist product,” he said.