2014 Tesla Model SEnlarge Photo
Tesla Motors has a very clear plan of action over the next few years. First, it must continue selling its Model S sedan, not just in the States but Europe and China too. Then, it will roll out the Model X crossover. And finally, it will launch a smaller, more affordable electric sedan based on its 'Gen 3' platform (Gen 2 is the Model S/X and Gen 1 is the original Roadster).
As the smaller sedan's launch draws closer, Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] is drip-feeding further details on what its third-generation car will be like. Among the latest details are that Tesla wants to price it "realistically", next to conventional compact luxury rivals like BMW's 3-Series, and that to meet that goal, it's unlikely to share the aluminum construction of the Model S.
According to Autocar, Tesla's vice-president of engineering, Chris Porritt, says the new car will be around 20 percent smaller than the Model S and sit on its own dedicated platform. As well as keeping battery costs down (they'll be smaller, but hopefully more advanced by the time the sedan is launched), the car will likely have steel construction to further reduce costs. It may well use bonding and rivets in its construction though, as both are lighter than using welds throughout.
Tesla's cost-cutting is necessary to ensure it's within realistic reach of customers who might otherwise buy a BMW 3-Series, Audi A4 or Mercedes-Benz C-Class. CEO Elon Musk has previously stated the car would come in at under $40,000, but also said last year that it may cost half that of the Tesla Model S—a car that starts at just under $70,000 with the smallest 60 kWh battery pack.
The new car is likely to share a family resemblance though—Porritt is critical of other electric cars, such as the Nissan Leaf—which he calls too "different" and "eccentric". "[People] want to have pride in their car's looks" he says. What's less clear is the car's name—Tesla recently dropped its trademark for the "Model E" tag after discussions with Ford—who possibly objected due to its similarity with the long-running E-Series van line.