Tesla Intrigue Deepens With Musk’s Twitter Barrage
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.”