Elon Musk's live-stream from the Tesla Design Center in Hawthrone, California, is about to start. The stage is dark, but the noisy acoustics don't lie. As the excitement in the auditorium rises, it's obvious that high-tech's savviest — arguably greatest — showman is about to unveil his first mass market electric vehicle (EV).
The loud buzz surges into a rumbling cheer.
House lights come up on Tesla's young design-team leader, who greets everyone packed into the huge space. Then he throws to Musk who confidently takes the stage, and whose physical presence, along with a barrage of lights and electronic music, rivets the crowd's attention.
Musk's first casual remarks, "Welcome, everyone, to the Model 3 unveil," rouse an even bigger cheer, kicking off his latest installment of Tesla: Clash of Tech Civilizations, where solar and lithium battle fossil fuel-powered climate change, and Ironman — his flashy Hollywood alter ego — finishes the job, kicking its ass.
Getting right down to business, he talks up the mission, "Why does Tesla exist? Why are we making electric cars?" We all know the answer, which he immediately Musk-splains,"It's very important to accelerate the transition to sustainable transport."
"Transport" is the trigger word. It carjacks any self-restraint, so now I don't just see a new EV in my future but a chance to buy an integral part of a transformed energy and transportation system. Without investing a dime, I already feel like the proud owner of a Tesla supercharging station hooked up to a solar-powered planet.
As a global audience embraces the whole Musk-meme, it's easy to imagine a Nairobi college student in Sub-Saharan Africa watching the charisma-fueled pitch pixelate across his smartphone screen saying to himself, "Plug me in, Ironman."
0 to 60 in less than 6 seconds
Musk, who is part solar evangelist, part motivational coach, and total technologist, pulls out his go-to sales tool as he vividly describes the climate threat level, "We have record high CO2 levels. See the chart — it looks like a vertical line." As a hockey-stick graph leaps up over his shoulder, we're all thinking, "Please let us help, let us buy one of your cars!"
Turning up the heat even more, "That line is going to keep going into the future," says Musk-the-closer. "Ok, stop, we get it, we'll do it," silently implore members of a fan base who'd been lining up since dawn at Tesla showrooms across the world to put down a $1,000 reservation on a car no one's seen before.
Almost magically, a crisp digital image of a shrouded Model 3 materializes on stage, and the audience half gasps and cheers the still unseen "mass market, affordable car."
The Model 3 won't go on sale until late 2017, nevertheless, in the first 24 hours that order banks are open, Tesla racked up more than 115,000 reservations. By Friday that number jumped to 200,000 and kept on climbing.
At a starting price of $35,000 — before federal and state government incentives — the Model 3 is less than half the cost of Tesla's previous models.
And the car will travel 215 miles fully charged, about double what range-bound early-adopters currently coax from competitors for the same price.
Dip to black, lights up and several model 3's silently drive out onto the stage and stop. His vision has seductively arrived in the flesh. And it's pure, actionable techporn. Suddenly it's easier to believe that ubiquitous solar energy, the future global supergrid and even the tenuously hypothetical singularity are close at hand.
Hitting the launch's wind down, Musk wants to ensure that the base Model 3 is irresistible and quash any pre-order remorse that might flare up later. So he shamelessly humble brags that it will easily seat five people and still bust from 0 to 60 in less than six seconds. That’s not whiplash fast like the Model S, but, for anyone still enduring a commute in a standard Corolla, it’s plenty fast. And then he points out that future versions will go much faster. “At Tesla,” our trusted technology guide assures us, “We don’t make slow cars." Of course we're cheering — and buying.
Would you buy the new Tesla?