Editorial: No Matter How You Cut It, A Tesla Model 3 Isn’t For Everyone (And That’s Okay)

It’s two weeks since Tesla Motors unveiled its highly-anticipated Model 3 electric sedan, prompting massive queues at Tesla stores around the world and queues as long as we’ve seen them for any Apple product.

And with 360,000 pre-order reservations and growing, nobody can deny that the Tesla Model 3 is a car that is in some serious demand around the world. But in the two weeks since then, we’ve come under some pretty heavy criticism from Tesla fans aghast that (despite posting articles covering both the five things we like and the five things we don’t like about Model 3) we’re not falling over ourselves to crown a car that is still a year or more from production as the best thing since the EV1.

The Model 3 won't suit everyone's needs. That's okay.

The Model 3 won’t suit everyone’s needs. That’s okay.

We’ve even had hate mail. Most are simply not suitable for public consumption. Others, like the one at the bottom of this article (written with a mixture of regular and ALL CAPS, presumably for maximum effect) show that we’ve stirred a hornet’s nest among the Tesla faithful. As we’ve said before, we’re all about cleaner, greener safer and smarter cars here at Transport Evolved — and that includes cars like the Tesla Model S, Tesla Model X and whenever it enters production, the Tesla Model 3. But our editorial remit is to cover the plug-in and autonomous driving industry in its entirety, not just one manufacturer. Moreover as journalists, we believe it’s important to raise questions and provoke discussion rather than simply print articles that everyone will agree with.

There are other valid choices besides Model 3.

There are other valid choices besides Model 3.

(Which brings us back to the meat of this article, namely the practicality of the trunk on the Tesla Model 3. If you’re one of the many who has sent hate mail in recent weeks, we suggest you may want to stop right here and either go somewhere else or read another one of our articles. If you’re willing to read something that may not entirely fit in with your views on Model 3, please, continue on.)

As we mentioned last week, the Tesla model 3 trunk has split the Transport Evolved editorial team down the middle. Some love the all-glass roof, improved rear headroom it offers and sedan body stylings. Others (this writer included) feel the tiny trunk aperture makes it an impractical choice. Since our article, we’ve seen plenty more, arguing both for and against the design of the trunk.

But one caught our eye. Originally published on Teslamondo and reprinted today on InsideEvs, the article argues that the Tesla Model 3’s tiny trunk should be enough for most people, suggesting that it’s not the Tesla Model 3 that’s the issue — but those who carry around too much stuff.

“Rather than face a reality that doesn’t measure up to the adventurism pushed by TV ads, we tend to overshoot our travel range, our entourage and our ‘gear’,” the article notes. “If we were dogs, we’d be a tiny breed that doesn’t roam very far and needs very little paraphernalia, but barks constantly for a longer leash and a bigger doghouse.”

In other words, we need to learn what’s important in our life. And a large, cavernous car isn’t one of them.

Model 3 is a revolutionary car -- but it's not for everyone.

Model 3 is a revolutionary car — but it’s not for everyone.

Taken at face value, we’d have to agree at least partially with that statement. As a society, we do spend an inordinate amount of time and money obtaining things to put in our increasingly-large homes, drive around in increasingly-large cars and (much to our detriment) eat an increasingly-large amount of food. But to suggest that the Tesla Model 3’s tiny trunk opening should be more than enough should we only transcend the boundaries of consumerism is, frankly, a little unfair. Moreover, it reminds us of the thing which most irks us about Model 3 fever: namely that we’re all different. There’s no one electric car to suit all needs any more than there’s one house design, one size of clothing, or one ideal career path.

We’ll agree too that there’s a disparity between perceived needs and actual needs for pretty much every person we’ve encountered who is considering a new car. One of the reasons Tesla has managed to secure just so many deposits in such a short period of time for Model 3 is because we’d wager the overwhelming majority believe that a range of 200 miles per charge is their absolute minimum for daily practical driving in an electric car.

Anything less is perceived (and in some cases emphatically proven) to be simply impractical in everyday life. But of those 360,000 people so far to place down a $1,000 (or equivalent) deposit to be in line to buy a Model 3, only a handful will need a range of more than 100 miles in everyday use and even fewer will need to use the full 215-mile predicted range on a daily basis.

But here’s the thing. Many who are in line for a Model 3 already know that fact. They’re opting to buy a car with a larger range because 1) it exists and 2) they can see a genuine need for that 215-mile range once or twice a month. And because of that, the Model 3 makes good financial sense to them. And while we’re currently quite happy tooling around in two electric cars with ranges of less than 100 miles per charge, we’d never turn down more range if it was offered.

Why bemoan people who feel the same way about luggage space or load bay versatility?

Don't think a Model 3 will meet your needs? That's okay.

Don’t think a Model 3 will meet your needs? That’s okay.

Sedans aren’t for everyone. Some people prefer pickups, or SUVs. Others prefer hatchbacks or wagons. Just as every person has different tastes, beliefs or quirks, so too are there many different choices when it comes to cars. Some make their purchase decisions because of mere preference. Others have a genuine reason why a sedan simply won’t work (such as having a large family, dogs, or a hobby that requires transporting large objects around.

One size does not fit all. And that’s okay.

Right now, the largest variety comes from traditional internal combustion engine vehicles. As time passes, we’re going to see more and more car companies offer the same kind of choice in electric vehicles, either because of direct consumer demand or because Tesla (and companies like it) are threatening the market share currently enjoyed by the Detroit Three and their Asian and European counterparts.

Those for whom the Model 3 is not a perfect fit will have to face a choice in the coming months if they want to drive an electric car: either find another model from a rival automaker; find an alternative car for the times when a Model 3’s small-aperture hatchback won’t work (such as borrowing a friend’s car); or waiting until Tesla makes a car that does fit their needs.

A used Model S may be an option for some. For others, it might be a next-generation LEAF.

A used Model S may be an option for some. For others, it might be a next-generation LEAF.

At the moment, there are of course two other Tesla options for those for whom the Model 3 isn’t a perfect fit. The Tesla Model X crossover SUV is unlikely to be a good choice in terms of sticker price, but an early Tesla Model S (high-mileage examples of which could be available in a  years’ time for Model 3 money) might fit the bill far better than a Model 3.

Other options will come. Both from Tesla and rival automakers. Although Tesla is probably the only company right now with a car that combines range, performance, price and charging provision, there’s no shame in choosing an alternative if the Model 3 doesn’t work for you.

The job of an automaker is to make a car that people will want to buy. If customers don’t feel that a particular make or model of car fits their needs, they go elsewhere. In the case of the Tesla Model 3, we’re expecting a reasonably large number of would-be Model 3 customers hold off until a similarly-priced, similar-range electric car comes onto the market with a more practical luggage space for their family life. Tesla can choose to either bring out a wagon, hatchback or SUV variant to the Model 3, or it can see its potential customers go elsewhere instead.

But what we’re hoping everyone will agree is that name-calling and public shaming of those who either don’t like the Model 3’s design or don’t like its lack of hatchback isn’t the way forward for either Tesla fans or the electric vehicle community as a whole. Getting off fossil fuels — and onto renewable energy solutions for our transportation needs — is. It’s a sentiment shared by Tesla CEO Elon Musk and, we’d humbly suggest, is one more of the electric vehicle world should strive towards too.

As for those emails? Here’s the most sanitary of the lot so far:

From: Ezra T<redacted>, <<email redacted>>

You are HELPING BIG OIL by writing NEGATIVE stories about EVS! TESLA is the BEST THING to happen to EVs since GM killed the EV1!

Quit writing your LIES about TESLA! If you can’t realize how Elon Musk is changing the world then you need to quit and go write about TV shows or something!

You are doing BIG OIL’s WORK FOR THEM.

QUIT BEING A B<<word redacted>> of BIG OIL.


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