Op-Ed: Tesla Model 3 Is BMW 3 Series’ Unconventional Competitor

FEB 15 2015 BY STAFF 50

BMW 3 Series eDrive Plug-In Hybrid Coming Soon

BMW 3 Series eDrive Plug-In Hybrid Coming Soon

The BMW 3 Series looks to be getting some more competition. This time, though, it’ll be a completely new kind of competition – the electric kind.

Tesla’s CEO and Founder, the always entertaining Elon Musk, has officially announced the Tesla Model 3. Musk must mean business if he’s naming his new car after the 3 Series. Not set to come out for a while, as Tesla is still working on the Model X, the Model 3 should hit the 3 Series where it’s most vulnerable: its price.

The BMW 3 Series starts at $32,950. That’s a bit steep for a base model 3 Series with less than 200 hp and manually adjustable seats. The Tesla Model 3, however, is set to start at $35,000.

*Editor’s Note: This post present the opinions of BMWBLOG writer Nico DeMattia and appears on that site here.

That’s higher than the 3 Series until you factor in the federally mandated incentives for buying an electric car, which are $7,500. So take the $35,000 starting price, subtract $7,500 and you’re left with $27,500. That’s the price of a well-equipped VW GTI and the Model 3 is all electric, has more luxury features, will probably be faster and far more reliable. If Tesla can deliver on that price promise, the Model 3 will be an incredible deal.

The Model 3 will also, most likely, be fantastic. The Model S is one of the most incredible cars on the road and that was Musk’s first real shot at a production car (the Roadster doesn’t really count, was basically just an electrified Lotus). Being that he will have more experience after making both the Model S and X, the 3 should be phenomenal.

“[The Model 3] will be way different from any other car on the road,” says Musk. But, “in a way that’s really useful and just doesn’t feel like a weird-mobile.” said Musk.

BMW 3 Series

BMW 3 Series

He’s probably the only CEO in the world who can use the term “weird-mobile” and still be taken seriously. He also states that the Model 3 will be 20 percent smaller than the Model S and will come with most of the Model S’ features as standard. Which is impressive, given the Model S starts at twice the projected price of the Model 3.

I have no doubt Musk will deliver on his promise of an exceptional Model 3 and an exceptional price. He’s a determined man who lets nothing get in his way. He has his own space program, that says enough about his determination.

BMW better get ready for the Model 3 because Musk and Tesla mean business. If BMW wants to stay competitive when the Model 3 comes out, they better have some sort of hybrid, performance 3 Series, at least, up their sleeve.

Maybe put some i8-level technology in the 3 Series and then BMW would have something to fire back at Musk.

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50 Comments on "Op-Ed: Tesla Model 3 Is BMW 3 Series’ Unconventional Competitor"

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If BMW makes an hybrid, it will be DOA.
We all want electrics only. We settle for hybrids because we have no better options for now. A good range, that’s all it takes.

No we don’t all want electrics. If we did then there wouldn’t be a single ICE on the road.

PHEVs will sell well for a while yet.

that doesnt even make any sense

First ICEs won on range.

That is, first cars where electrics. First top speed records belong to EVs. Etc.

ICEs won on range initially.

Or rather battery technology did not advanced well in early years.
(Heck even now its hard industry)

Also when last time I did read big number of car reviews, I saw two factors come out as most important in the end:
a) Estetics (“I choose A car because it looks better” from major car review editor….)
b) Dynamics (“I choose B car bacause it reacts better to acceleration”)

a) will come as soon as car manufacturers start to earn on EVs (2017? 2018?)
b) is already here, ICEs are simply outclassed at (almost) each price range


The best theoretical PHEV design will be something like a refined BMW i3 REx (fine, I’ll call it an EREV). Such a design will beat pure EVs in:
A) Cost: Going from 22 kWh to 55kWh will raise cost by $3-6k for a decade, whereas a 30-40kW REx will cost $2k max in bulk.
B) Convenience: It’s an unfair fight, but pure EVs will not refuel as quickly or as flexibly during road trips without a battery breakthrough.
C) Dynamics: A REx will weigh less than +33kWh of protected batteries for at least a decade.

I believe that there is something highly appealing about pure EVs to early adopters, and it takes more engineering effort to make a great EREV.

But the battle is far from over. It’ll be 2030 before pure EVs have a clear advantage over EREV.

ICE range extended “EVs” are for comprehensive cover pantywaists!

“…Or rather battery technology did not advanced well in early years.”

Wasn’t it rather that Power distribution changed from DC (which easily charged batteries) to AC (and charging DC batteries suddenly wasn’t so easy any more…)

You THINK you don’t want a BEV because of range anxiety. But that’s being addressed by Leaf 2.0, Model III, Bolt and whoever decides to release their “Tesla Killer”. 😉

Hybrid sales have actually declined, while BEVs sales have remained steady. I suspect the compromises of having deal with two underpowered drivetrains, is a turn off to buyers.

There isn’t much redeeming for ICEs to still be on the roads… Maybe historical nostalgia?

Hybrids went down in sales because regular hybrids are obsolete. For most people, it’s moronic to not add a few more kWh and a plug to make it into a PHEV.

I predict that next year, PHEVs will outpace pure EVs in growth.

BEVs are simpler, more reliable/durable, cleaner, cheaper to run and maintain and massively produced cheaper. I want nothing to do with petroleum anymore.

PHEV are effectively DOA. They will get hit by low oil prices and better BEV, so from both sides.

Yes “we all want electrics”, because they are a better car in every aspect, short of refueling speed. (range doesn’t matter so much if you could refuel quickly). Talk to the teenagers… It’s surprising how eager and matter-of-factly they are about all cars being electric in the future. They will be the next generation buying them (if the economy doesn’t completely implode)and they will chose BEVs, when the price allows it in 5 years time.

BMW made a solid effort with the i3, I give them full credit. But in typical BMW fashion it’s overpriced for what you get. Hence Elon’s “room for improvement” comment.

Battery tech is really hard to do. LiIon didn’t arrive on the scene until the 80’s. Before then it wasn’t feasible to think BEVs, but now that everyone sees the proof of concept with LiIon, I suspect the next leap will come quicker. We’re finally throwing some money and brainpower behind the research. Get ready, the future will be electrifying!

I would love a PHEV SUV with a range of 80+ miles. Then, nearly all city driving would be electric, but I can tow a camping trailer a few times each year on the ICE and not worry about range. Save the battery power for climbing the steep hills and do lots of regen on the way down (with the extra weight). If the electric motors were strong enough to run EV mode on flat roads (with a trailer), that would make it all the sweeter.

Depends on the hybrid. If it is a “standard” gas only “Prius-like” hybrid, then you’re right. However, if it is a PHEV or Volt-like EREV (not an i3 REx deal), then I think “Anonymous” is correct. Not everyone is going to want a all electric…yet. Hybrids are the current “gateway drug” to plug-ins and PHEVs will help us transition to electrified automotive transport.

A 3-Series with even just Volt-like capabilities and a 16 kWh+ battery would be a big hit. BMW already has done the standard hybrid thing. I think they are past that at this point.

If BMW can get the carbon fiber body costs down, they can use the weight savings to offset the battery cost advantage of Tesla. It should be interesting, given that nobody knows what form the Models E/3 will take.

I will be interested to see which car maker uses the packaging advantages of an electric motor (size and lack of transmission) to make a car that is different from a typical sedan.

Rumor is that the brain-trust at BMW expects the entire product line to be ICE free in ten years.

That’s good that they can see the writing on the wall. The luxury segment will likely be the first segment to go all electric. I’m sure right now that seems insane to some people. But I think BMW knows that when the Tesla Model III gets here, it is going to hit the luxury makers hard. So they are working to prepare. The current i3 is just a preview of what they are likely developing behind closed doors right now.

Normally this kind of article should be marked “advertising”…

Tesla Motors does a brilliant job of getting mass media to give them free advertising, doesn’t it? But given that weaning ourselves off addiction to burning oil as fuel is a good thing, arguably that’s a benefit to the public at large. Think of it as a public service message! 🙂


“That’s higher than the 3 Series until you factor in the federally mandated incentives for buying an electric car, which are $7,500.”

Model S and Model X will optimistically have sold in the neighborhood of 100k total vehicles in the US by the Model 3 launch date ~2017. If Tesla reaches its target price point, Model 3 sales are likely to be limited entirely by production capacity. If they can sell another 100k total vehicles in the first year of Model 3 availability, then the federal credits will begin to sunset sometime in late 2018 or early 2019.

Ultimately Tesla will need to be able to compete directly on price without incentives.

“far more reliable”

Tesla has made significant improvements in quality from Roadster to Model S and even mid-cycle with the Model S, but we know almost nothing about Model 3. It’s a little early to be making predictions about its reliability when we’ve yet to see the vehicle..

“The Model 3 will also, most likely, be fantastic.”

“I have no doubt Musk will deliver on his promise of an exceptional Model 3 and an exceptional price.”

Is it too early to simply award it Car of the Year 2017-2018?

“Model S and Model X will optimistically have sold in the neighborhood of 100k total vehicles in the US by the Model 3 launch”. Simply wrong, 2012 was 2K, 2013 22K, 2014 31K, 2015 Q1 10K = 65K already. Add Model X’s higher demand potential and two years of this growth rate and it’s well over 200K.

“It’s a little early to be making predictions about its reliability when we’ve yet to see the vehicle.” Are you suggesting it will be less reliable than Tesla’s first production car, which now has an 8 year unlimited mileage warranty. Again wrong.

“Is it too early to simply award it Car of the Year”. And again, that’s exactly what Tesla’s very first production attempt was awarded by Motor Trend and many others. Tesla wants to be selling 500K/yr in 5 years, so you don’t think they’ll get it right again? Tesla has a clean slate advantage, using superior technology, to deliver much better value. Look out!!

I don’t think Tesla choosing the name “Model 3” is an indication the company wants to compete with the BMW 3-series. After all, Tesla originally wanted to call it the “Model E”, so they could say they sold the models “S, E, X”… a rather blatant marketing attempt to emphasize how “sexy” their cars are.

And note the “Model 3” will actually be rendered as “Model ≡” (see the picture at the top of the article) with the “≡” looking like the “E” in the “Tesla” logo. So they’re getting their “S ≡ X” that way. So -that- is why they chose to call it the “Model 3”; it has nothing to do with BMW.

Let’s remember that the goal of Tesla Motors and Elon Musk is to end the era of gas guzzlers. It’s not just about competing with any single model of gas guzzler, but about competing with, and eventually out-competing, -all- of them.

How about Elon Musk directly saying they want to target the 3 series then? When discussing the Model 3 he almost always mentions the 3 series as the direct comparison.

What if in the mid term; Telsa offered up both a higher end(more expensive Model S); and a base model? You can get a brand new Mercedes for $30k. I should be able to get some version of a Model S for the same. So what if it has a 40 or 60 size battery in it. That will do for now.

Tesla does that already. The 60 kWh version of the Model S is the “base model”. The more expensive options are the dual-drive “D” variant, and the high-end “Performance” variant. The highest end now is the Model S P85D, a Performance variant which has the “D” dual drive.

Tesla originally offered an even lower-end base model of 40 kWh for the Model S, but there were so few orders for that (less than 2% of total orders) that they canceled it. I think I read recently that even the 60 kWh version currently gets only about 7% of orders.

Oops, hit “Post” too soon.

There is no way that Tesla can sell any version of the Model S for $30k. Not even if it had no batteries in it at all. The Model S is a -luxury- sedan.

Selling a car at a substantially lower cost is the goal of Tesla’s Model ≡. But even there, I’ll be surprised if they deliver it at a base price of $30k. The price has been quoted in the range of $30-35k, and it may well creep up even past the high end of that as it goes into production. EVs have an unfortunate habit of being sold at prices higher than initial estimates, and not just by Tesla Motors.

Can you get an E-, CLS-, or S-Class for $30k?

What a stupid comment.

So based on Tesla/Musk history… add 2-3 years from the time they actually give it a release date and show the vehicle. Then tag on another $10-$15k and you have the actual MSRP and availability.

Leaf 2nd gen and Bolt will be the go to cars in the meantime for pure EV with 200+ mi range. And BMWs Power eDrive will be the go to for a PHEV… and potentially Volvo… and Mitsubishi if they don’t get blindsided by US safety standards and their new subcompact CUV and large 7-seater make it over stateside

Oh, yeah. The Chevy Bolt and Nissan Leaf are gonna be chosen over a Tesla. The only thing they will likely have in common is EV range, although maybe not even that. I guess their standout feature will be their great looks?

The more EVs, the better. But trying to put those cars (and brands) against a Tesla isn’t going to go anywhere.

Leaf 1.0 already starts at less than $30k, leaf 2.0 will either be a lot cheaper or a lot better or both. I have no problem that the model 3 will be better than leaf 1.0

I’m pretty sure that they’ll stick to the 2017 timeframe for the Model 3, because of the huge investment in the gigafactory. Once that is ready they need to have cars to put the batteries in damn quick or the party is over!

Oh and I’ll believe Nissan and GM are going to release affordable EVs with 200+ ranges when I see it and not moment before. In fact if you look at it there is currently only one manufacturer that has got any experience with selling EVs with 200+ ranges and that’s Tesla.

And one more thing, would you rather have a 200 mile EV with access to a patchy network or Chademo and CCS fast chargers that are only working 50% of the time and tend to be at dealerships in the middle of cities, or a 200 mile EV with access to the supercharger network, a fast charge network that is designed to enable interstate travel using reliable proven technology?

I’d love a Tesla, I can afford a Nissan (just), by the time Tesla hit the 200 mile $35k car Nissan will most likely have a $25k car with a 150 mile range. I’m doing all right with my 80 mile leaf with access to 1 fast(er) charger (25kW) and about 20 working level 2 chargers (I live in Australia, great place, not particularly well known for looking forward). The model 3, super chargers and the aggressive path Tesla is taking are important to me only because it keeps the competition honest. As I mentioned above the model 3 will not be fighting against cars released in 2010, it will be fighting against cars released in 2016-2020. Tesla have worked hard to carve out a space for themselves but at the moment they have no competitors which is why they look amazing. They are Yahoo in 1997 there were no other search engines so everyone used Yahoo and everyone thought it was great. As Tesla move down the tree into the mass market where there are already some pretty good cars and it’ll be tougher (keep in mind the model 3 is not going to be a model S but… Read more »

So You say that company that purly do EVs will have MASSIVE lags, and substantial troubles with price even though they will mass produce batteries on their own.

And companies that just recently did their first gens EVs….

Will be quicker, better and cheaper?

Can I have that stuff too, You took before writing that comment? 😛 😉

I think he said that the companies making cars also know as “bend steel in a nice form” have more experience in “beending stell in a nice form” than tesla.

Sure tesla may be faster in building and testing their motor compared to a ICE, but the rest of the car might take longer since they have less experience.

Also it might mean he based his assumptions on the delivery date and price that tesla had in the past:
Roadster some years later as predicted, almost twice the inital price.
Tesla Model S around 1 year to late, still 20-30% more expensive, than when first projected.
Tesla Model X – sould start production late in 2013, is now summer 2015?

Still the cars are amazing. But Tesla up to date produced later and more expensive than first assumed.

Frankly, kinda bummed there likely won’t be any Falcon Wing doors on the M3. 🙁

I wonder if Tesla Model 3 P85D can go below 3 seconds 0 to 60?

it would be cool if they came out with a quad motor design also!!!

Do they need it?

Once could imagine Roadster Gen 2, for say 250 000 $, with such amaizing acceleration.

Sub 3s is domain of pricey (1mil$ !!!) cars, after all. What would become of psych of owners of sports cars out raced by sedan owners! ;P

Actually the GTR and 911 Turbo are $125-$175K cars.

The thing is the BMW 3 is available now and the Tesla 3 is not. Next year BMW will have PHEV in the 3 series which will only have 50km range in EV, but hay it’s a start.

What people seam to miss, is that batteries are replaceable.

So if better battery can guaranty same power characteristics. Just swapping battery can increase range.

You DO NOT need whole new car for that.
(Though it still influence such things as finding new supply chain, new electronics, new safety/range/eco ratings costs, etc.)

Look forward to What Tesla can bring to the table, been very very good so far.

Guys sorry for posting this in the middle of nowhere but how true is that?


Sounds like music to my ears. Maybe theyll end up making a lot more than 5k this year 🙂

Not liking this comment from Orth Hedrick, vice president of product planning at Kia Motors America, shows some weird prejudice against EVs selling well or being useful:

“We went back to the factory and told them it’s doing very well and it’s now expanded beyond an EV, it’s something bigger,”

The original article says that Elon stated that the Model 3 will have most of the Model S features as standard.

Can somebody show a link for that?

I think expectations are more astronomical for the 3 than for space x.

The model 3 will have all the features of the S. It will be $35k. It will be here in 2017. It will do 0-60 in x seconds.

Something has to give

My guess is thwt the 3 will price similarly to the 3 series. Opens at $35k for basic model. Rapidly increasing to $55-75k with full options. (3 85P)

It’s exactly how the S is priced.
opens a $70k but rapidly gets to $118k.

I agree. A P85D-equivalent Model III will probably be in the price range of the M3.

I remember comments from Musk/Tesla saying that some features that are standard on S would be options on 3.

Nobody should expect a loaded Model 3 for $35k.

I am expecting Model 3 ($35k – $65k) to be about half the price of Model S ($70k to $130k). That is very similar to a BMW 3 series ($32k to $62k).


I have a LOT of doubts about what Tesla will produce with the Model 3.

But I will still put down a deposit.