Tesla confirmed on Wednesday that its $35,000 entry-level Model 3 will be unveiled on March 31.
But what we will see in March is the prototype. Production and customer deliveries of the 3 won’t begin until late 2017.
And by the time Tesla’s 3 enters series production, it won’t be alone in the marketplace.
General Motor’s $37,500 Chevrolet Bolt will start rolling through assembly lines a full year ahead of the 3.
Like the Model 3, the Bolt comes with a price tag in the mid-$30,000 range and the ability to go 200 miles on a single charge.
So will Chevy’s one-year head start be trouble for Tesla? Not if you believe Tesla CEO, Elon Musk.
“I would like to point you to the large luxury sedans segment,” Musk said during Tesla’s investors call. “If the Model 3 behaves at all like the Model S in its market segment, it doesn’t seem like we are going to be demand constrained.”
What Musk referred to was the 2015 US sales data for the S, in which it outsold all of its large luxury-sedan competitors by a large margin. According to Tesla, it sold more than 25,000 Model S sedans in the US last year, while its nearest competitor in the segment, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, sold just under 22,000 cars.
But it should be noted that none of the S’s rivals are electric vehicles. On the other hand, the 3 has a direct rival from GM, which happens to be one of the biggest, oldest players in the automotive business.
The Model S and Model X crossover SUV are unique vehicles in their respective segments, as there are no offerings from original equipment manufacturers competing against the two cars.
Tesla expects the 3’s affordability and 200-mile range to appeal to the general consumer with the hopes that it will help the company greatly expand its sales volume over the next few years.
GM unveiled its Chevrolet Bolt prototype last year, and the production version was revealed last month.
Business Insider had the opportunity to experience a preproduction variant of the Bolt a few weeks ago at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and found the car a lot of fun to drive.