Tesla’s first official announcement about its newest and most affordable model yet completes the company’s sexy lineup — literally.
Founder and CEO Elon Musk initially decided to call the smaller, $35,000-fourth production line car the “Model E” to make up the gap between its leading luxury Model S and the forthcoming Model X SUV crossover, which begins shipping next year. (RELATED: Tesla Aims For Affordability With ‘Model E’)
“We had the Model S for sedan and X for crossover SUV, then a friend asked what we were going to call the third car,” Musk told Auto Express. “So I said we had the Model S and X, we might as well have the E.”
Unfortunately for Musk and company, Ford said it already owned the trademark for Model E. The company proceeded to sue Tesla, saying it had plans to use to name.
“I thought, ‘This is crazy, Ford’s trying to kill sex! So we’ll have to think of another name,'” Musk said. “The new model is going to be called ‘Model 3,’ we’ll have three bars to represent it and it’ll be S III X!”
Tesla spokesman Simon Sproule confirmed the new name to USA Today, and hinted that the spelling of the company’s full product line wouldn’t be very subtle.
“Yes, correct that the new car will be called the Model 3 — wait and see how the final badging will be executed,” Sproule wrote.
The world will get its first look at the Model 3 in 2016, and go on sale in 2017. It’s being priced to compete in the same market as the BMW 3-Series or Audi A4 at half the price of the baseline $70,000 Model S, which will be brought down thanks to cheaper construction materials and the reduced cost of battery production afforded by the company’s forthcoming battery Gigafactory. (RELATED: Texas Gov. Rick Perry Wants Tesla In Texas)
British engineer Chris Porritt, formerly of Aston Martin, is designing the tech behind Model 3, which will be 20 percent smaller than the Model S, have a range of 200 miles and feature “strong performance” — one of the hallmarks of the Model S’ success.
“We want people to fall in love with their car and look forward to driving it,” Musk said.
The entrepreneur also announced the company’s first car, the Tesla Roadster launched in 2008, will be getting a battery upgrade from a max range of 245 miles to about 400.
Tesla is expected to sell 35,000 cars in 2014, and break into six digit sales by the end of the decade thanks to Model X and Model 3.