I’ve been driving my Model 3 for over 3 weeks now, and on average I’ve stopped by about 3-5 public places (like supermarkets, stores, malls, parks, farmers market, etc) every day. I’m also on the local roads quite a bit as well. But one thing I’ve noticed is that there haven’t been as many people as I expected who recognize the Model 3. It’s only rarely will a person recognize that my car is a Model 3 and give it a second look. For example, one person next to me at a stop light took out his phone and took a quick pic of my phone. But this hasn’t been common.
So, I have some theories about this. First, the Model 3 doesn’t have typical badging that other cars have. There is only a “T” symbol and no Tesla lettering or no “Model 3” lettering as well. The lack of badging tends to make the car less conspicuous.
Second, I think most people who see the Model 3 don’t realize notice its differences from the Model S, so they’re thinking that it’s a “Tesla”. One example is yesterday I was visiting an open house and the realtor saw my Tesla and asked, “how do you like your Tesla?” I said, “I love it. It’s the new Model 3.” Blank stare came for her eyes. So, I continued, “It’s their new smaller model”. Still blank stare. So I continued, “I used to have the Model S, the larger sedan and loved it but I love this new one as well.” She then changed the subject, “So, how do you charge?”
A couple weeks ago I was doing some hiking with my son at a wilderness park in northern San Diego county. At the parking lot there were about 15-20 college students from UC Irvine getting ready to do a group hike. I parked right next to them with my Model 3, and not one of the students recognized the car as a Model 3. Well, at least, none of the students gave the car even a second look. No one asked questions; no one looked inside. I was kind of shocked that out of 15-20 college students, not one recognized the car. Later a few more students joined them, and one of the students appeared to recognize the car. But I’d expect more college-aged students to be excited to see a Model 3. But for them, they just weren’t aware.
Another anecdote. Yesterday I parked my car at the main entrance of a local farmers market in Temecula (about an hour north of San Diego). Dozens of people passed by the car while I my son decided to play in the car for 20 minutes after doing some shopping. Not one person recognized the car or even stopped by to look at it. One person did mention “Tesla” but didn’t seem to know it was a new model from Tesla.
The point being, is that at this stage of the game most people don’t even know Tesla has a new model or if they do, then they don’t know what it looks like in person.
While the Model 3 might not be recognized by the vast majority of people, Tesla in general has amazing recognition, especially in southern California where I live. Everybody knows Tesla. And everybody is familiar with the Model S. So, it’s not that Tesla doesn’t have brand recognition. They do.
However, the new Model 3 is a new car model and is not well recognized, yet. I would expect in certain areas like Silicon Valley that more people recognize the Model 3 because it’s becoming more common. And I expect as the Model 3 becomes more common that not just people recognize it more but they become more interested in it.
I think all of this bodes extremely well for Tesla. The masses don’t recognize the Model 3 but the early adopters are fanatical about it (as evidenced by the hundreds of thousands of reservations). Tesla can sell the Model 3 for a couple years just to these early adopters. But the big market is the mass market (beyond early adopters) and what my personal experiences show is that there’s lots of room in the market for Tesla to gain awareness and market share.
One last anecdote. I met an owner of a fairly new BMW 435i the other day, and we were chatting. He said that he leases his car and drives a new BMW every few years. I mentioned that I had the new Tesla Model 3, and he had a semi blank stare… he didn’t know what I was referring to. He knew Tesla, but he didn’t know about the Model 3. He told me he really liked his BMW but that my Tesla “would blow his car away” with 0-60mph acceleration, which is a strange statement because his BMW 435i is actually slightly faster than the Model 3 in 0-60mph acceleration. I’m think he was referring to the Model S’ 0-60 mph acceleration. In other words, he knew Tesla and he knew Teslas have crazy acceleration (much faster than BMW), but he didn’t know anything about the Model 3. But here’s one guy that Tesla will likely win over in the next few years. He’ll hear more about the Model 3 and will for sure see many on the roads. When his BMW lease expires in a few years and he takes a test drive in a Model 3, I don’t know how he will not choose a Model 3 over another BMW. The Model is just that good.
I don’t want to make it seem like no one recognizes the Model 3. I have had several people come up to me telling me that their Model 3 reservation holders and wanting to see the car up closer. But again, this hasn’t been nearly as often as I would have expected.
Anyway, it’s going to be fun watching the Model 3 gain more recognition over the coming years which will only increase demand for the car. Tesla is is a very good place and their growth prospects look better than ever.