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A more basic Model 3 - Will it happen?

SupraDude

Member
Jun 11, 2019
131
91
Fredericton
I was theorizing with a friend this weekend about the concept of a more basic (more affordable) model 3. Instead of offering a lower range version that most people won't go for; there is likely a ton of options that many people could likely live without. Eliminating some of these would dramatically reduce the overall cost of the car. Of course, it's not like sales are lagging at the moment so why not sell them for as much as you can but as that changes, I think it makes sense to offer a base model 3 or maybe they change the name and call it a model 4 or something.

Options that could be removed/changed-

Heated seats - Removing the 10 heated seat pads per car.

Leather seats - Change to cloth is more affordable.

Tablet size - reduce to 8 or 10 inch, enough to display the speed/gear, backup cam, basic radio. Remove nav/internet radio.

Glass Roof- Remove and change to solid metal roof.

Auto wipers- Not sure if there is an actual sensor that controls this or if it's just done through the camera system but either way it could go.

Power/memory seats- change to manual/mechanical.

No Autopilot function - Completely remove extra AP computer. 7 extra cameras could go, all but backup cam. 8 Cameras if you count the non-functioning interior camera.

Remove parking (ultrasonic) sensors - Not needed since no AP anyway.

Standard cruise only - Remove front radar.

Charge port door- Remove motor & make manually hinged.

Climate vents- Add manual adjusters.

Frunk- remove liners, make this utilitarian only with manual cable release.

Trunk - remove solenoid & add mechanical release.

Remove footwell lightning - I always have mine off anyway.

Remove one usb in center console.

Remove gloss looking center console/door trim- from a manufacturing standpoint regular matt black would likely be lower cost.

Remove wood dash trim, go-to basic black.

Aero covers- do not include with basic models.

Perhaps a simpler key system of some kind?

I know people will always have excuses for holding out going to an EV but it's sort of interesting to think that Tesla could likely already make the car that everyone claims they want if of course, Tesla wanted to. I'm confident that if you removed all of those items it would add up big time but it would also remove a ton of weight off the car to give it even better range.

Anyway, I just thought it would be an interesting conversation to have. What are your thoughts? Anything else you could remove? Or anything you wouldn't remove? Do you think an even lower-end Tesla will ever happen?
 
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TomB985

Member
Apr 15, 2019
446
527
Isanti, MN
I think the biggest obstacle to that is brand identity. It would be akin to asking Lexus to sell a Corolla… They would probably sell, but harmful to the overall brand. Cadillac and Lincoln are examples of luxury brands they competed downmarket with badge-engineered versions, and it didn’t work out well for them. Cadillac has been clawing their way back for the last 15 years, and Lincoln still has a ways to go.

As a consumer I think it would be fantastic, but it would certainly reduce the allure of the Tesla brand. Which would probably be harmful to the overall business, so I don’t think it’s a great idea.

If they can scale the production capacity, I could see the introduction of a more mainstream brand making sense.
 

St☰v☰

Member
Aug 27, 2019
787
530
SoCal/Texas
Then they'd have to have a unique assembly line. That's why all Model 3's come with essentially everything* installed, only some features are deactivated, like fog lights that are there, but don't turn on on the SR, rear heated seats, etc.

* excludes subwoofer
 

Trips

"Boring bonehead questions are not cool. Next?"
Sep 22, 2015
1,216
1,406
Omaha, NE
Half of those were originally scheduled for the $35k version. They found that is was to expensive and complicated to make the base $35k model with different components. Elon has also stated that they do not want to sell anything for under $35k.
 

SupraDude

Member
Jun 11, 2019
131
91
Fredericton
A lot of those suggested changes like the roof and AP components are key to the safety of the car. I can't see them removing all that.
The actual structure of the car can remain the same, you'd simply swap the glass for a metal skin which would be much less cost. Ya AP components are cool but can you really see a 70 year old grandma using those features?


I think the biggest obstacle to that is brand identity. It would be akin to asking Lexus to sell a Corolla… They would probably sell, but harmful to the overall brand. Cadillac and Lincoln are examples of luxury brands they competed downmarket with badge-engineered versions, and it didn’t work out well for them. Cadillac has been clawing their way back for the last 15 years, and Lincoln still has a ways to go.

As a consumer I think it would be fantastic, but it would certainly reduce the allure of the Tesla brand. Which would probably be harmful to the overall business, so I don’t think it’s a great idea.

If they can scale the production capacity, I could see the introduction of a more mainstream brand making sense.
That's a good point, they could certainly call it something else and keep Tesla for the luxury line, then they've got to rebrand all the chargers and showrooms and service centers and stuff though and at the end of the day I'm not really sure how much all that matters. Just because Chevy makes the Spark, it wouldn't stop me from spending $150,000 on a Corvette ZR1.


Then they'd have to have a unique assembly line. That's why all Model 3's come with essentially everything* installed, only some features are deactivated, like fog lights that are there, but don't turn on on the SR, rear heated seats, etc.

* excludes subwoofer
Yea for sure it adds complexity but they'll eventually have another North American factory sometime in the future and could plan it out with that rollout.

Half of those were originally scheduled for the $35k version. They found that is was to expensive and complicated to make the base $35k model with different components. Elon has also stated that they do not want to sell anything for under $35k.
Again I think this was factory limitations at the time and I can't say I blame them for that decision out of the gate as they figured out mass manufacturing, but as they get the hang of it, I think that would change. Also, Elon says a lot of things lol.
 

SomeJoe7777

Marginally-Known Member
Mar 28, 2015
2,177
5,645
Houston, TX
Heated seats - Removing the 10 heated seat pads per car. Possible, savings would be fairly minimal.

Leather seats - Change to cloth is more affordable. Additional production line required to make cloth seats, so you have to weight initial outlay vs. extra profit in the cloth seats over the leather seats, and then also factor in how many of this lower end model you would sell. Time for return on investment / break-even is likely to be really long.

Tablet size - reduce to 8 or 10 inch, enough to display the speed/gear, backup cam, basic radio. Remove nav/internet radio. Massive cost increase to stock an additional part, and have to redesign all of the software to run on the smaller screen.

Glass Roof- Remove and change to solid metal roof. Possible, but cost overhead to re-certify roll-over safety and manufacture new metal molds to stamp out new roof part is huge. May not save much in cost anyway.

Auto wipers- Not sure if there is an actual sensor that controls this or if it's just done through the camera system but either way it could go. No cost, done through cameras and AP computer.

Power/memory seats- change to manual/mechanical. Have to stock another model of seat, see the Leather seats comment above.

No Autopilot function - Completely remove extra AP computer. 7 extra cameras could go, all but backup cam. 8 Cameras if you count the non-functioning interior camera. Can't do it -- all safety features such as automatic emergency braking, lane departure avoidance, side collision avoidance, etc. are all dependent on AP cameras and AP computer.

Remove parking (ultrasonic) sensors - Not needed since no AP anyway. Can't remove -- needed for driving safety features.

Standard cruise only - Remove front radar. Can't remove -- needed for driving safety features.

Charge port door- Remove motor & make manually hinged. Have to stock another part, time for ROI/break-even is long.

Climate vents- Add manual adjusters. Massive cost -- requires redesign of entire dash and HVAC system.

Frunk- remove liners, make this utilitarian only with manual cable release.
Trunk - remove solenoid & add mechanical release. Possible, but cost savings likely to be minimal.

Remove footwell lightning - I always have mine off anyway. Cost savings of leaving the bulbs out is probably pennies.

Remove one usb in center console. Probably cost increase, as you're saving only pennies in parts, but need to stock different assembly.

Remove gloss looking center console/door trim- from a manufacturing standpoint regular matt black would likely be lower cost. Pennies in savings, not worth stocking second part.

Remove wood dash trim, go-to basic black. See above.

Aero covers- do not include with basic models. Range will already be low on low-cost model due to smaller battery, removing Aero covers reduces range further.

Perhaps a simpler key system of some kind? Phone-as-key already saves money by not including keyfob.


I also agree with posters above -- this type of vehicle should not be sold under the Tesla brand. You would need a downscale brand for this. Probably would be a good idea anyway, since if you really wanted to make an EV that's as low a cost as possible, a complete redesign from the ground up is what you'd want to do. This is probably viable only after the battery manufacturing costs come down with volume, not before. A 20% reduction in battery cost is probably more than the total savings in ALL of the modifications you cited above.
 

HyperionMark

Member
Aug 28, 2017
517
240
Brookings, SD
Most of those things you mentioned are very cheap. Cameras are cheap, software is cheap, screens are cheap, even the heated seats are pretty cheap. They make such great margin on those items that it wouldn't be smart. A lot of cost in battery and motor(s).

Elon has also stated that they do not want to sell anything for under $35k.
Do you have a source? I've seen Elon say the opposite, specifically during MKBHD's interview. He mentioned selling a $25k car eventually. Just search for "elon mkbhd" on YouTube.
 

JATinNH

Member
Jun 15, 2019
52
36
Salem, NH
It’s an interesting idea to ponder (removing/downgrading options and materials for a lower priced vehicle) but what I actually see happening is the continued trend of uncoupling and individually commoditizing features ... like they are now doing with the Homelink option. This will not result in the base price of the car going any lower, but of course a fully optioned version will continue to rise. Think airline baggage and misc fees. Not saying it’s good or bad... probably a smart business approach ... just saying that appears to be where things are headed.
 
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xilex

Model P3D
Jul 5, 2018
350
206
Cypress, CA
It's like being Apple fan and saying they should build a very basic cell phone that is more affordable, so remove all the cameras because just need the cell phone to talk on, remove all the sensors (no movement sensor, no face unlock sensors, no fingerprint unlock sensor, can't use maps because no GPS), put a A10 or older processor in it, polycarbonate body instead of brushed aluminum/glass, plastic screen instead of Gorilla glass, non-Retina display, etc).
 

afadeev

Member
Feb 28, 2019
694
629
NYC
I was theorizing with a friend this weekend about the concept of a more basic (more affordable) model 3. [...]Do you think an even lower-end Tesla will ever happen?

For the sake of Tesla surviving as a company, I hope it wont happen anytime soon.
They can't figure out how to make money with the currently priced Model 3's cannibalizing S & X sales.

If anything, I hope Tesla raises the prices on Model 3's to steer toward profitability and long-term stability.


Of course, it's not like sales are lagging at the moment so why not sell them for as much as you can but as that changes

Actually, sales #s are starting to become a challenge for Tesla.
They aimed for 100K deliveries in Q3, but could not achieve that (booked 97K vs. 84K for same quarter the prior year).

But the real problem is the mix of product, with the lower-margin Model 3's undermining higher-margin Model S & X sales.
While Q3'19 delivery #s were up year-over-year vs Q3'18, the revenue is down to ~$6.4B vs. $6.8 B for the same quarter the prior year.

The last thing Tesla needs is to further cannibalize higher margin Model 3 offerings with even lower-margin stripper-Model 3s!
 

SupraDude

Member
Jun 11, 2019
131
91
Fredericton
For the sake of Tesla surviving as a company, I hope it wont happen anytime soon.
They can't figure out how to make money with the currently priced Model 3's cannibalizing S & X sales.

If anything, I hope Tesla raises the prices on Model 3's to steer toward profitability and long-term stability.




Actually, sales #s are starting to become a challenge for Tesla.
They aimed for 100K deliveries in Q3, but could not achieve that (booked 97K vs. 84K for same quarter the prior year).

But the real problem is the mix of product, with the lower-margin Model 3's undermining higher-margin Model S & X sales.
While Q3'19 delivery #s were up year-over-year vs Q3'18, the revenue is down to ~$6.4B vs. $6.8 B for the same quarter the prior year.

The last thing Tesla needs is to further cannibalize higher margin Model 3 offerings with even lower-margin stripper-Model 3s!

Yeah, so lots of valid points here and throughout the thread. Like I stated, "if they wanted to", I didn't say they should, simply saying it's not impossible to theorize a simpler 3 and this thread was more intended to talk about IF it did happen than what might it look like?

To address your points directly, ya sales didn't quite hit their target but it did come pretty close and for now, it's as easy as opening new markets to get there but it's not like there are endless parking lots sitting actionless and brimming with stocked cars for the North American market. Realistically they couldn't deliver that many more cars at their current production volumes. Eventually, they will run out of market expansion and then they need to explore maximizing each of the markets and I wonder if an even lower cost car will be part of that long term consideration. No argument here that higher-end vehicles are better for the bottom line but there is only so many higher-end consumers. I do worry about the 3 cannibalizing the S sales but I think the upcoming plaid, Nurburgring run, and a slight refresh will refresh some excitement.
 

holmgang

Active Member
Sep 9, 2019
1,299
1,315
eu
Parts costs are miniscule. An extra USB port costs cents. Seat material are already fake leather, so I imagine very cheap relative to cloth. etc.

In some cases it costs more to supply another part or significantly modify the production process.

They can reduce manufacturing costs in attacking the costly parts (motors, battery, etc), or by improving manufacturing efficiency. Yanking out the footwell lights does not reduce cost or improve production time.
 

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