Stepping away from the letter-based branding of its larger Model S sedan and the upcoming Model X SUV, the new name could also be seen as symbolic of its goals: taking on BMW’s midsized 3 Series sedan.
Early reports had suggested the car would be known as the Model E, and Tesla founder Elon Musk had also used the ‘E’ name in past interviews. The new 'Gen III' has also appeared in recent months.
Speaking with the UK’s Auto Express magazine, the famously candid Tesla Musk illustrated the reasoning behind the name.
“We had the model S for sedan and X for crossover SUV, then a friend asked what we were going to call the third car,” Musk said.
“We were going to call it model E for a while and then Ford sued us saying it wanted to use the Model E - I thought this is crazy, Ford’s trying to kill sex! So we’ll have to think of another name.”
He added: “The new model is going to be called Model III, we’ll have three bars to represent it and it’ll be S III X!”
Interestingly, Tesla Motors itself has tweeted ‘Model 3’ twice today, using the regular character rather than the Roman numerals that Musk highlighted.
New Details Revealed
Already known is that the Model III (or 3…) will be around 20 percent smaller than the BMW 5 Series-rivalling Model S, and that Tesla will eschew the S’ all-aluminium construction in favour of keeping the new model affordable.
Today, Musk added that he expects the III to boast a driving range of more than 320 kilometres from one charge, which would make it a near match for the 390km range of the entry ‘Model S 60’ option.
Like the Model S, an 85kWh version of the 3 might also be offered, boosting range to around 500 kilometres.
Pricing is expected to begin at around half the starting point of the larger Model S. That would put the III in the neighbourhood of US$35,000 in its home market, and closer to AU$45,000 here.
The company is also planning to establish a research and development base in the UK, which Musk expects to have operating in time to contribute to the Model 3 project.
The Model 3 is expected to debut in 2016, although we could see a concept version of the new sedan appear before then.