California battery-car start-up Tesla Motors has shown it can take on established premium-luxury brands with its Model S sedan, but the real test will come when it launches an all-new mainstream electric vehicle it’s planning to call the Model 3, or Model III, depending on which tweet you read.
CEO and founder Elon Musk has long made clear his plans to go down-market, the new sedan expected to come somewhere around $35,000 – or between one-half and one-third of the price of the bigger Model S, depending on equipment and range. That would position the new offering as a direct competitor to the likes of – appropriately enough, the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedans.
The Model 3 actually would be Tesla’s fourth model, following the original Roadster, the Model S and the upcoming Model X sport-utility vehicle set to debut next year. But it would be, by Tesla’s count, bring the debut of the brand’s third-generation battery technology.
And it would allow the maker to come close to its original plans for a somewhat inside joke. The smaller model was originally scheduled to be called the Model E – until, that is, Tesla was reminded by rival Ford Motor Co. that the Michigan maker owned that trademark.