The world’s best electric car gets even better, but also even more polarizing.
When talking about mass-market electric cars, it’s hard not to mention Tesla. Last year, the company sold a record 1.3 million vehicles worldwide, nearly double that of its nearest competitor.
At the forefront of those astounding sales were the Model 3 and Model Y, and for good reason. Both cars are affordably priced, have powerful powertrains, great range, and are perceived as premium high-tech vehicles.
Unfortunately, Tesla is one of the most polarizing brands on the planet. If you forget the face of the company, Elon Musk, for a second, Tesla continues to make baffling decisions, often for the sake of “simplicity.” Whether it’s deciding to make a cyber truck look like a Lego set in order to create a stainless steel “exoskeleton” or installing flashers on the steering wheel to remove plumes behind the wheel, Tesla doesn’t seem to care how the general public reacts to its decisions.
And unfortunately, Tesla has continued this trend with the updated Model 3, a car that had the potential to be a mass-market EV with universal appeal.
The new Model 3 is a great car, but it’s not for everyone.
To Tesla’s credit, the new Model 3 is more attractive and its interior no longer looks like furniture from IKEA. It’s also quieter in the cabin, the suspension geometry has been changed, the tires are softer, and the range is slightly improved. But, of course, it wouldn’t be Tesla if it didn’t try to go overboard in some ways.
Like the Model S and Model X, the Model 3 ditched the paddle shifters and lights in favor of steering-wheel-mounted buttons and an on-screen shifter. But at least Tesla left the klaxon alone and didn’t cut off half the steering wheel.
Technology is certainly appealing to the masses, and it’s certainly one of the Model 3’s main strengths. But as we’ve seen with many other automakers, it’s very easy to overdo them and actually discourage people from buying a car. For example, even the rear seat vents are controlled by a screen.
In the end, you’ll either like or dislike some of the Model 3’s design choices. But to get used to some of them, like the on-screen gear indicator or the blinker buttons on the steering wheel, consumers will have to really want to buy a Tesla over the competition.
Many tend to choose a Tesla because of the ease of charging, but with powerful companies like Ford, GM, Hyundai, and Rivian adapting NACS, this is no longer a unique advantage. Fortunately, even without the charging advantage, there are plenty of reasons for buyers to purchase the car. The Model 3 still offers ballistic acceleration, great range and undeniable value for money.
However, with more competitive affordable alternatives hitting the market, will the Model 3 remain the best-selling EV?
Could the upcoming competition kill the Model 3’s popularity?
But while on paper these cars may squeeze Tesla, in reality Tesla will remain one of the world’s largest EV manufacturers. It remains the only automaker capable of producing more than a million electric vehicles a year, and that number is likely to rise dramatically once the mythical cyber truck finally goes into production and the updated Model 3 hits store shelves.
By comparison, some of Tesla’s best-selling competitors, such as the Mustang Mach-E and Hyundai IONIQ 5, have never exceeded 40,000 units per year. And while that’s likely to change in the next few years, the Model 3 and Y will remain the default choice for many. It’s just a shame that not all of the changes Tesla has made to the Model 3 have made that choice even easier.