I arrived at work this morning and went through my morning routine of checking emails and glancing over the daily automotive news when a headline stood out to me. The story was about the huge number of people plunking down $1,000 to secure an order for the upcoming Tesla Model 3 electric car.
What surprised me was the volume of people putting their hard-earned money into a vehicle that they have not even seen. I started to look online to get to the bottom of what was driving these unheard of pre-sales numbers. Depending on what source you read, the first 48 hours of pre-sale activity yielded somewhere between 250,000 - 300,000 pre-orders. These were not dollar totals but actual numbers of people pre-ordering at $1,000 a piece. The cost of these vehicles — to be manufactured in the future — will start at $35,000. This price was not rubbing elbows with luxury vehicles, but by no means in the price range of an economy car, as the Tesla marketing department would like us to believe. Granted, it is an electric vehicle that will go 0-60 in around 6 seconds. That is pretty quick, but also not deemed groundbreaking territory for cars anymore. Plus, you can only travel around 200 miles before it needs to recharge. Without a charging infrastructure, the thought of jumping in the driver’s seat and losing yourself in a coast-to-coast adventure kind of falls flat with such a short recharge range.
At first it puzzled me why there was such a rush to this vehicle. Was it the “gotta have it” mentality that drives people to camp out overnight to get the newest cellphone every 6 months? Was it the allure of a trendy nameplate like Tesla? Was this a simple case of beating the Joneses? Or was it something more?
Throughout the automobile’s existence there has been an evolution of technology. From a crazy idea of a horseless carriage to a steam driven engine, which bowed down to the internal combustion dynamo that powers our world today, we have always embraced the newest and most interesting innovations. Perhaps this is what all the fuss is about. I will admit I am intrigued by the potential of the modern electric car. Electric cars have been around since the dawn of automobiles. For debatable reasons they never took hold in the past. Could this be the electric car’s day in the sun? With all the political and economical wrangling centered on oil, perhaps this is a statement that the buying public has had enough and wants an alternative. I am sure there are many online forums that can debate such matters, but I don’t have the time or answers on that issue.
So what can old car enthusiasts take from all the commotion? Is this the end of all we hold sacred? Will our old cars go the way of the dodo and we will be forced by our DMV overlords to take to the roadways in electric-powered autonomous vehicles? I highly doubt that the end of gas-powered cars will come soon. About the only thing I have figured out in this crazy world is that when push comes to shove, people want choices. I take solace in the fact that people still get excited about automobiles. There has been a growing fear that the collector car hobby is greying and vanishing. The next crop of enthusiasts will still see the automobile as a symbol of freedom, individualism, and a link to our history. The look might change, but the sentiment will remain steadfast. There will be a day when we will be forced to take that next step in the automobile’s evolution, but not today. Either way we should not fear the change but embrace it, for that will keep the flames burning far into the future.
That being said, I personally am not rushing to put $1,000 down on an unseen and untested vehicle.