Tesla In­trigue Deep­ens With Musk’s Twit­ter Bar­rage

The Economic Times - - Around The World -

Will the Model 3 be the first self-driv­ing car? The CEO drops more hints in 68 Tweets

Tesla Mo­tors Inc. doesn’t re­ally do tra­di­tional press releases. In­stead, when Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Elon Musk has some­thing to say, he of­ten re­lies on Twit­ter for a few 140-char­ac­ter rev­e­la­tions.

Fol­low­ingthe­un­veil­in­glast­weekof his new Model 3 elec­tric car—which at­tracted al­most 300,000 de­posits from cus­tomers around the world— Musk­tweet­ed68­times,talkingabout fea­tures rang­ing from the car’s in­stru­ment panel to its hub­cap de­sign and­plans­forhigh-speed­su­per­charger net­works in Europe and Asia. The pro­to­type Model 3 that Musk re­vealed Thurs­day had a sur­pris­ingly sparse driver­side dash­board. In fact, there was no dash­board at all, just a slightly ob­long steer­ing wheel and a 15-inch hor­i­zon­tal touch­screen that con­trols just about ev­ery­thing. “Why did you choose that hideous steer­ing wheel de­sign?” some­one asked Musk on Twit­ter.

Musk re­sponded: “That’s not the real steer­ing sys­tem.” In a sep­a­rate ex­change, he sug­gested the fi­nal Model 3 may feel more like some­thing from SpaceX, one of his other com­pa­nies.

The un­veil­ing was just the first of two sep­a­rate events show­ing off the Model 3’s fea­tures be­fore it heads to pro­duc­tion late next year. Musk hasn’t said where or when the event would take place. In re­sponse to an­other ques­tion about the lack of a dash­board, he said, “It will make sense af­ter part 2.” Is part 2 a self-driv­ing car? Musk re­peat­edly re­ferred to the sec­ond un­veil­ing event. These ex­changes prompted spec­u­la­tion on Twit­ter about whether the Model 3 may even be a fully self-driv­ing car. Note the fact that Musk never says “steeri ng wheel,”

In re­sponse to a ques­tion about the Model 3’s aero­dy­namic per­for­mance, Musk said the com­pany was hop­ing for 0.21 drag co­ef­fi­cient. That’s ex­ceed­ingly sleek. Per­haps the only car in pro­duc­tion with less drag is the Volk­swa­gen XL1, a pod­like car de­signed for fuel-econ­omy brag­ging rights. With a co­ef­fi­cient of 0.19, the XL1 costs more than $150,000 and is avail­able only in Europe.

Love it or hate it, the stiff-lipped front end of the Model 3 is one of its most rec­og­niz­able fea­tures. The car doesn’t have a grill, be­cause un­like a gaso­line-pow­ered car, it doesn’t need one. “Some tweak­ing un­der­way,” Musk wrote in re­sponse to a critic of the front-end de­sign. Musk wel­comed sug­ges­tions but also pointed out that de­sign work is tricky. “Edge and con­tour re­fine­ment are on­go­ing,” he said, but even a 10th of a mil­lime­ter mat­ters.

By the end of next year, Tesla plans to dou­ble both the num­ber of high­speed su­per­charger sta­tions world­wide, to 7,200, and ser­vice lo­ca­tions, to 441. Su­per­charg­ers are com­ing to Mex­ico, Italy, and Ire­land this year, and ser­vice cen­ters will open in Spain. While a Euro­pean fac­tory needs to be built to meet long-term de­mand, Musk said, it won’t de­lay the Model 3 roll­out there. As for Asia, Musk wrote on Twit­ter that “Tesla will be in In­dia be­fore 3 pro­duc­tion starts.”

Musk said gifts were on or­der for ev­ery­one who put down $1,000 de­posit on a Model 3, with some­thing ex­tra for those who waited in lines that stretched by the hun­dreds at show­rooms around the world. Some­one asked if the gift would be a “scale Model 3,” prob­a­bly re­fer­ring to a ver­sion of the very de­tailed $210 diecast model car the com­pany sells of its other mod­els. Musk re­sponded: “And a few other things.”

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