When Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning established Tesla Motors in 2003, with Elon Musk joining as chairman shortly after, the subject of this week’s road test was their ultimate goal. Namely, a low-cost, high-volume electric car with the kind of appeal that could wean us all off internal combustion for good. Perhaps it seemed like a distant vision at the time, but 15 years isn’t such a long time for such lofty ambitions to be realised, even in the automotive industry, and here we have the Tesla Model 3.
Musk would go on to oversee the design and development of the Lotus Elise-based Roadster (an example of which was recently used as a dummy payload for one of the Falcon Heavy test flights into space) and bring Tesla to the attention of the public.
Deliveries for the Model S saloon then started in 2012 before the Model X SUV arrived a few years later. Both electric cars were characterised by sleek, understated curves, a performance potential on a par with the quickest supercars from Italy and Germany and a driving range in excess of anything else found in the slowly unfolding market for zero-emission cars.
Such rapid, exciting growth with fledgling technology has come at a cost, though. Tesla has variously weathered a level of debt, production bottlenecks and quality control issues that have at times felt like existential threats.