Elon Musk: Tesla Plotting Gen 4 Model That Everyone Can Afford



Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3

Skip to 12:12 here (or in video embedded above), and you’ll hear Musk imply, without expressly stating, that Tesla is plotting a Gen 4 Tesla that everyone can afford. Model 3, he acknowledges, leaves about half the population unable to swing the price.

“There will be future cars that will be even more affordable down the road . . . With fourth generation and smaller cars and what not, we’ll ultimately be in a position where everyone can afford the car.”

He might have been talking about the EV scene in general, not specifically a Tesla strategy. But for the sake of a measly blog post, let’s assume Tesla eagerly participates in this fourth generation.

It’s hard to imagine Tesla tackling a higher-volume project than Model 3, given the Mount Everest of Model 3 orders that needs to be whittled to a pitcher’s mound in the next few years. But Tesla is all about “increasingly affordable” cars. Its website used to say so — remember? The big question is whether Tesla could pull off something that other marques have tried but failed to do, which is cheapen the brand without cheapening the brand. That’s the “dilution” in the headline.

Elon Musk On Gen 4 Tesla

Elon Musk On Gen 4 Tesla

This drive downmarket does have some cautionary tales. BMW and Mercedes both have intermittently flirted with cheap hatchbacks, with little success in the US, better elsewhere. The Caddy Cimarron, Porsche 924, Porsche 914, Ford Mustang II — all of them problematic for brand image. But the gold medalist in dilution pollution is the Jaguar X-Type. Remember that? During the brief time Ford owned Jaguar before selling to Tata, Ford managed to nearly destroy the brand by offering this generic, cheapo Jag Frankenstein of slapped-together Volvo and Mondeo parts.

It sold in greater volume than Jaguar’s other models, but that’s not saying much for a low-volume specialty brand. Tata rescued Jag and has since cranked out stuff worthy of the name. Imagine? A polished British brand polluted by Ford, but saved by . . . the same company that builds the Nano penalty box.

The cheapening of Tesla likely won’t result in the cheapening of Tesla, for a few reasons.

  1. There’s no impostor like Ford behind the curtain. Teslas are pure Tesla.
  2. A cheap Tesla at any price level would still set itself apart from the field, if only for being purely electric. How many affordable pure EVs will exist, even 10 years from now? How many with their own ecosystem of proprietary charging stations?
  3. Tesla’s brand identity is better defined than, say, Jaguar’s. What makes a Tesla a Tesla? That’s not very hard to answer, at least for now. When autonomous driving flattens the automotive landscape, putting a Honda Accord on equal footing with a BMW 5-Series,  then every automaker will have to reinvent itself, including Tesla. Until then, Tesla is all about electric, fast, sexy, and a sprinkling of James Bond.

So far, Model3 certainly has not diluted the Tesla brand. If anything, it has strengthened it by introducing Tesla to the general vocabulary. TeslaMondo has witnessed more traffic since Model3 hit the scene, if that’s any valid measure.

*Editor’s Note: This and other Tesla-related posts appears on TeslaMondo. Check it out here.

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49 Comments on "Elon Musk: Tesla Plotting Gen 4 Model That Everyone Can Afford"

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I think that more value will come out of non-car solutions that Tesla is working on. I believe that the transportation solution that was hinted at earlier this week is a “transport pod” type system that will pick you up at home, join up with other pods for regional travel, and split off to deliver you to your destination.

This is the future of personal and family transport. Need to get to work, single person pod comes to get you. Family needs to go on a regional trip, family size pod comes to get you. Family needs to go to grandma’s for the weekend, pod takes you to the hyper loop station, maybe even directly into the train.

I agree with the notion this will be at least 5 years down the road when battery prices continue to fall, battery capacity is increased, and a second or third Tesla plant is on-line in lower cost manufacturing spots. Remember the Giga factory can supply around 500,000 packs/year at peak (and will be used for higher margin cars). They will learn higher volume production scale with the M3 — then the cheaper even higher scale with the M4. My bet is the Model Y (cuv based on the M3 platform) then the mass-car. 2021 is my target date….

Yeah, sure . . . I bet he thinks he can land a rocket on a platform floating out in the ocean too!


LOL! Not only that, I heard he thinks hit can put some spit polish on that rocket and then send it back into space for 1/10th what other people are charging and do it multiple times!

Next thing you know, he will be talking a manned Mars landing.

Hmmm, according to one article I read, SpaceX’s prices have wound up being about twice what Elon planned; that is to say, about 1/5 of typical commercial launch costs, not 1/10. Still a remarkable achievement, though!

Yes, but the SpaceX masterplan is not finished yet. The have just started on reusability.

Maybe they upgraded the platform – so now it has ‘Pull’ – and it can ‘pull down the rocket’ from space? I think it is lonely all by itself out in the Atlantic, – sees the Falcon sailing high, and magically reaches up and pulls id down! :^)

Those downmarket cars you mention were all crappy vehicles in their time.

Hopefully a Gen 4 Tesla won’t be.

Wow 100 years from now Musk will be well regarded and praised by humanity.

Model 4?

Sure, maybe coming by around 2025 given Tesla’s delays and need for capital (plus lead times to construct factories and battery capacity…h

I read comments about a second gigafactory real soon. Tesla had to borrow $500 million from the government to get started then got their factory for next to nothing from Toyota.

They have to pay $5 billion for the battery plant, I doubt they will build another for at least 3-4 years, if then.

Your source filtering is defective.

It’s tempting to serve you a comment about the millionth gigafactory. Just to illustrate.

I would be mildly surprised if there’s a second one announced before the Model 3 launches. But not shocked. My point here is simply that comments and loose rumors are about the worst source of information you can get. 🙂

I don’t know about “source filtering” but several comments have been made that Tesla will make one gigafactory after another with no evidence to support that claim.

I think this is where people are getting the idea that more Gigafactories will be built:

“…Gigafactory version 1, we are building that in Nevada and there will need to be many Gigafactories in the future…” “…I want to emphasis this is not something Tesla is going to do alone, there will need to be many companies building gigafactories of their own…” “…Tesla’s policy of open patents for gigafactory…..will remain.”

– Elon Musk

At 15;35 of this video: https://vimeo.com/126637913

I always liked the Think Ox prototype, but it never saw the light of day. Could have been a nice, simple and affordable electric car.

You totally brought back the Dead on that one……lol

If Apple, at any point in time, would choose to join the EV fray, think this Think Ox would be a goodstarting point for them. When you look at it you know it can easily grow in size, be scalable, this design offers a lot of options. Though, I feel it would piss Toyota tremendously, as this Think bears some resemblance to its Toyota Yaris hatch. What the heck ..

The Ox looked nice. But now that I’ve seen the Model 3 . . . I’ll go with that instead. Much more aerodynamic. (I know, I obsess over the aerodynamics. That’s because I like driving fast but still want long range for an affordable price.)

I watched the interview and to be honest he really didn’t say anything of value in this respect. Tech get cheaper. Woo.

Brand dilution is always an issue that all “premium” brand have to think about. On one hand, they want to reach higher volume, but on the other hand, they want to keep the Elite status for the high end model.

Tesla can create a new “sub brand”. Called something like “XXXXX by Tesla” So, it would be able to distinguish the two without diluting the high end…

But Elon has always wanted to bring affordable EVs to the masses. So, even if it dilutes the $120K Model S/X, I think he would be okay with it…

Ampere? Has a nice ring to it in my opinion.

I think GM already own that name with Volt’s cousin in Europe..

SparkEV with more range (~140 miles highway) at post subsidy price could be like Tesla Gen 4. At $18K (or $16K) and quickest among all gas cars at that price, that screams Tesla-like EV performance/price. It it comes with optional self driving mode, there’d be no reason for gas car.

Funny thing is, GM might be able to swing this. Unfortunately

scott franco (No M3 FAUX GRILL!)

You put your finger on one of my thoughts. However, I would state it like this. A spark, using next gen batteries, with the same 20kWh battery, but selling for 15k.

That would be a true mass market EV.

SparkEV already had 21 kWh battery and $16K in CA. Due to poor aerodynamics, 21 kWh (19 kWh usable) isn’t good enough even at $15K

What’s needed is 2 hours of freeway + 10 miles of spare, which brings it to 140 miles as bare minimum. With heat/AC, that will be less, but 1.5 hours of freeway (~100 miles) as worst case is very good compromise. Based on existing spec of 18.4 kWh battery in 2015/2016,

140 / 82 * 18.4 = 31.5 kWh

That’s about the size of new Leaf battery. Then Tesla could have

Model S-70, Model 3-50, Model4-30

The tough thing about small inexpensive cars is that once you start making it too small, the aerodynamics become TERRIBLE. For example, the Smart Car is a rolling brick. The Spark is not much better. Think City is terrible.

You need a tapered nose and tapered tail to get good aero. But when you make little economy cars, it is hard to do that.

Tapered tail is bad for Cd unless you make the taper very gradual. That’s not really practical in cars, however, so carmakers pursuing low Cd use spoilers, hatchbacks, kammbacks, etc.

The VW XL1 has a somewhat tapered tail; as a result, the rear wheels are set closer together than the front.

But that’s an example of extreme engineering, and it’s only a 2-seater. Dunno if we’ll ever see that in a mass produced 4-door vehicle. The XL1 is in very low volume production, and a body tapered to the rear would yield a very narrow rear seat.

Meh, Telsa would be better off persuing their autonomous car-sharing system that charges you per hour or per mile, rather than trying to make a car that is more downmarket than the Model 3. Just take the model 3 and charge people time to ride in it from place to place.

For inner city use you don’t need all the comforts of the Model 3. Lower speeds means less need for aerodynamics, glass sunroof, fancy audio system, handling etc. More of an autonomous box with simple modular design, easy servicing and cleaning after public use. Down scale works fine, charge less for use.


Wait – didn’t Elon want to Build – a Newly Designed – Roadster – after the Model 3? And – somewhere out there is a Pick Design cooking in his head – this Model 4 – is it another baby in the oven of Elon’s brain?

I am sure – when (if?) Tesla goes to build a $20,000 and sub priced EV with ‘Not less than 200 miles Range’ – they will need Gigafactory 2 and 3 in place (or at least figured out where they will be – so they can start a new bidding war!), and multiple Auto Factories either in place, or accessible/controllable by them, so they would be able to meet the up sized demand of 3-5 Million such cars a year!

I wonder if Elon and Team could come up with an e-Bike with ‘200 miles range’? I am sure it would be more Motorcycle – than e-Bike – because ‘Tesla doesn’t build slow cars’ (Slow Motorbikes – not likely either)!

There are successes in small cars, and failures in small cars, even within the same companies.

For example, BMW cut the tail off of their 3-series sedan, and sold a “ti” model for a while in the US. It was a sales failure.

But BMW’s “Mini” division went and sold an even smaller car, and it is a massive success in the US.

There is a market for EV’s in every size that gas cars come in. Including small cars.

I remember when the Model S was going to be a “$60,000 sedan” and the Gen III/Bluestar/Model E was going to be the affordable family car. What sweet, naive times those were.

Looks like the S sells for as much as a 7-Series, the III will end up selling for as much as a 5-Series, and maybe in 2020 Tesla will start working on a car that “starts at $20,000” (but actually sells for as much as a 3-Series).

Baby steps.

Comparing Teslas’ street prices to BMW’s lowest base price? Remember that the 3-series comes in many models and the jump is steep. The dealers of German cars are not a generous bunch.

No, I’m comparing street prices to street prices. The base 7 is $81k, base 5 is $50k, base 3 is $33k.

Oh I see, Because a base model three will cost $35,000 that is actually closer to $50,000 than it is to $33,000. Got it.

Spider Dan failed 3rd grade math…LOL

I am unsure how to restate the phrase “I’m comparing street prices to street prices” in terms you can understand.

No you are not. You are comparing the street price of a model three at $50,000 to the base price of a BMW five series at $50,000.

I don’t think the street price of a MIII will actually be $50,000. So there is the disconnect.

A slight correction:

I don’t think the MIII will have a street price of $50,000 for a long, long time.

If Tesla has 400K pre-orders, that is a very long line of people buying the highest-end Benefactor’s Insignia Ridiculous version. Those will not go for $50K, and Tesla has shown in the past that in the case of supply constraints, higher-end orders are prioritized over lower-end orders.

If Tesla wants to supply the future car-sharing services it’s going to have to go downmarket. However, there’s a lot of potential for parts simplification in EVs if you can use wheel motors. At that point the car’s structure becomes a motorless box, with the power plants mounted on the suspension. What you want is a more flexible material for the body. Maybe this can be done with 3D printing someday.

Bravo Tesla.

Please raise the height of Model 4 and make this as CUV because these vehicles command 30% market share today in USA.

No, that would be the Model Y.

The Model Y should be in a class of Renault Captur, Peugeot 2008 which are on the rise. Were sold in 150k copies in Europe last year, each. But simultaneously with small CUV design, Tesla should push ahead with 4th gen small city car design, and even enter some partnership, if needed.

A Generation 4 model from Tesla will be several years down the road. Someone upstream said 5 years, but I’m fairly certain it will be more than that. It’s gonna take Tesla at least 4 years to ramp up production of the Model ≡, and they’ve got the Model Y planned after that.

In the meantime, we might see some other auto maker, such as Apple or BYD, start selling a compelling BEV in the North American market. The market might look rather different by the time Tesla is ready to actually start building a Generation 4, Everyman BEV!

I think this model’s name will be “Y”.