Franz von Holzhausen Discusses Tesla Model 3’s Rule-Breaking Design

Red Tesla Model 3

FEB 14 2018 BY EVANNEX 24

Tesla Model 3

Automobile’s most recent magazine cover showcasing the Tesla Model 3 as winner of their ‘2018 Design of the Year’ award (Reddit: kravensfan4)


Automobile magazine recently awarded the Tesla Model 3 ‘2018 Design of the Year’ calling the car, “simple and straightforward, perfectly proportioned with minimal extraneous detailing. It has all been done with unmistakably good taste… We have the impression that the studied simplicity of both interior and exterior will let this car age extremely well, that in 10 years it will still look contemporary and beautifully understated.”

Automobile’s Robert Cumberford sat down with Tesla’s Chief Designer, Franz von Holzhausen to learn more about his approach to the design of Tesla’s newest sedan. It’s reported that “Von Holzhausen, a born American despite his Teutonic-sounding name, has deep industry experience, having created the Pontiac Solstice and heading Mazda design in California before being headhunted by Musk for Tesla.”

*This article comes to us courtesy of EVANNEX (which also makes aftermarket Tesla accessories). Authored by Matt Pressman.

Tesla Model 3

Tesla’s Chief Designer, Franz von Holzhausen (Image: Globalist)

Von Holzhausen explained the design brief for the Tesla Model 3: “It was essentially customer-driven. They saw the Model S as a great car, but there was a desire for something 10 to 20 percent smaller… We thought the $35,000 price point would work. We wanted five seats, more interior space, and to keep the fastback silhouette.”

Tesla Model 3

The team at Tesla’s LA Design Studio located in Hawthorne, California (Instagram: david_imai

Von Holzhausen describes the attributes that Model 3 shares with its siblings, the Model S and X: “For instance, we knew that flush door handles were important, but we simplified the mechanism, so they are not as costly. We kept good aerodynamics for range as well as to make the car sporty. Not silliness, just clean and sporty.”

Tesla Model 3

Initial design sketches for the Tesla Model 3 (Image: EVANNEX)

Von Holzhausen also explains the rationale behind some of Model 3’s design choices: “To keep the fastback profile, we eliminated the liftgate and used a normal trunk lid. To keep a faster profile, we moved the structure ahead, to make sure the [head impact criteria] were all met. The big backlight is something we had experience with on the Model X windshield.”

Design characteristics of Tesla’s Model 3 (Infographic: Business Insider)

Von Holzhausen elaborates on why the design team decided to eliminate the front grille altogether: “That was a long time coming. We made the early cars less distinct from rivals but slowly came to this solution of how to keep a premium sports feel friendlier and happier than the luxury S. We changed that car, too, modifying 200 to 300 parts when the S was restyled without the painted ‘shield.'”


Source: Automobile

*Editor’s Note: EVANNEX, which also sells aftermarket gear for Teslas, has kindly allowed us to share some of its content with our readers. Our thanks go out to EVANNEX, Check out the site here.

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24 Comments on "Franz von Holzhausen Discusses Tesla Model 3’s Rule-Breaking Design"

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It’s a good looking car.

Love his designs. From the modern Mazdas to the flashier Tesla’s… Solid good looks with high function. Love my Model X.

Not to mention my other car, the Pontiac Solstice. GM should have paid him whatever and given him whatever to keep him. Oh well…

If You look back to the “1960’s Studabaker Avanti”.. It Had a Mouthless Grill too , Probably the 1st do do so.. it had the slit at the very bottom , slightly Larger than The one on model 3 But at a Glance you could not detect it …The Radiater inside was angled for proper cooling.. The Avanti Design was Way ahead of it’s Time 55 yrs Ago. Von could have gone straight down with the Hood line & Left out the Pig Snout ..But it would’ve made the hood slope too much and make it (the hood) look too short. This is Perfect!

Not to mention every VW bug since the 1930’s had no front grill.

Why would an air cooled rear engined VW need a grill?

If you look bacon automotive history, there have been lot of “grill less” cars including many with “Frunks” although nobody called them that. Making a car without a grill is not shocking, or really that controversial, but in this day and age in the American car market and I guess other markets as well, designers and marketers have decided that the grill and the logo are the only important things needed to market the car and give it identity.

Sadly, we have reverted to the 1920s when this was also the case. The only way to identify a car then at a glance was the radiator grill and the hood ornament. With the somewhat copy cat, generic design language that everyone seems driven to out of fear, we find ourselves in this place again. Grill and logo.

Great design. Great designer.

Thanks Franz for eye-catching classic design that never goes out of style.

Wait, they’re still unsure about the battery? How old is? Ok, checking the source the chart was published on April 9, 2016.


“The most controversial feature is the ‘mouthless’ front fascia.”

I really like the front design – much better than the ‘jowls’ and insect-like ‘mouth’ that most other manufacturers are doing.

Looks good now, but from a practical perspective that painted front panel is a stone chip magnet.

A decorative front panel, or “grille”, will look far better after 50k miles than pock marked paint.

It will be almost essential to get aftermarket Expell or similar protective overlays on the M3 front end if you want to have any chance of it looking good down the road.

Another Euro point of view

Classical but good looking.

Looks like it’s still a clay model. I prefer a little more detail rather than a blank slate.

I haven’t seen one with a front license plate, but, I’ll bet it’s not pretty.

Don’t put one on.

It’s required by law in some states.

(⌐■_■) Trollnonymous

I’ll try and take a pic of the ones driving around here. They do have plates on them.

I note the official Tesla image above shows the Model 3 without those fugly “aero” wheel covers.

So, Tesla realizes they’re a negative selling point. Too bad they couldn’t redesign them so they’re not such an eyesore!

(⌐■_■) Trollnonymous

“I note the official Tesla image above shows the Model 3 without those fugly “aero” wheel covers.”

You’re wrong PuPu, the image above is plain Jane no brain. But with the Sexy Ass’d Aero Covers on it’s a Victoria’s Secret Hottie From NASA!!!

Well then, obviously I’m wrong. Who can argue with such dazzling, brilliant logic and reasoning like that? 😉

I predict the blank grill will not remain blank long and will inspire the more creative of us to paint it with artful offerings. I’ve been thinking of painting a WW2 p-40 shark face on mine. Or how about a false grill, or, how about a big “T.” or a big “3” or your name; or, your company name, or….

Since most states, including the state with by far the highest EV sales, California, require a front license plate, the blank front is not really blank.

Wonder if they could go to a digital front license plate so that it would be a screen molded to the front profile instead of an ugly attachment.

yea, a digital plate, so you could change the numbers from inside the car. James Bond would be proud.

It’s better looking in person (though I have only caught quick live glimpses so far), but it’s still rather plain. Was really hoping for something more striking based on some of the early Musk tweets and hype.