Tesla Model 3 is ‘just a smaller, more affordable’ Model S, says Elon Musk

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The Tesla Model 3 is not a product iteration along the lines of successive iPhones, Elon Musk clarified on Twitter on Friday. Instead, it’s a “smaller model affordable version of Model S” with less range, less power and fewer features, according to the Tesla CEO. The Model S is still going to be the leader in terms of it technological capabilities — so think more iPhone SE than iPhone 7 versus iPhone 6s.

Musk’s tweets were sparked by observation that many watching for the release of the Model 3, which is set for later this year, would be a kind of next-generation Tesla vehicle. Per the CEO, it’s more like Tesla will be leveraging its existing and past technical achievements, adding in the benefits of having nailed down their production processes to build them affordably at scale.

This is where the frequent Tesla comparisons to Apple start to break down a bit, and we’re reminded that, at heart, it’s a car company. Automakers typically debut new tech in their high-end line, and then bring this to their more mass-market models over time — often spanning many years or even decades — as costs associated with manufacturing decline and make it possible to achieve decent margins with lower retail prices.

Musk also reiterated the reasoning behind the car’s name — the intent was to call it the Model E, but Ford blocked this because of its trademark on that name. The crude humor behind the idea was to have the names of Tesla’s first three models spell out “S–E-X.” Awkward dad joke CEO at the height of his craft.