Electric cars used to be a quaint novelty for a niche demographic. But the throngs trying to nab one of Tesla's new Model 3 sedans are turning a one-time fad into a phenomenon. The Washington Post reports that in two days' time, 276,000 people preordered its latest vehicle, adding for context the fact that popular cars such as the Honda Accord also reach close to the 300,000 mark—each year. "We've never seen anything quite like this in the auto industry," says an Edmunds.com analyst. "It is unprecedented." And even if all of those Model 3 hopefuls don't end up behind the wheel—the Post notes some may cancel, or Tesla may have a hard time producing that many, per a Forbes warning and even CEO Elon Musk's own recent tweet—it's still an indicator that electric cars can sell, and sell well.
"Tesla is putting together the idea a vehicle needs to be cutting edge and cool, more like an iPhone than like a Model T," says a Forrester auto analyst. The popularity of the Model 3—around $35,000 for the most basic version, closer to $42,000 for a typical tricked-out model—is likely due to a combination of factors, including better battery life, more charging stations, and even the appeal of Musk himself. And what one Blue Book analyst says is a "big wake-up call for the rest of the industry" has definitely caught other manufacturers' attention. "We're certainly pleased to see such strong demand for affordable long-range EVs," says a rep for GM, which is coming out with its own electric car, the Bolt, later this year; Nissan's CEO tells Automotive News the Tesla preorders are "good competition." In the meantime, Tesla is getting most of the accolades. "Years from now we'll look back and say Tesla started an electric vehicle revolution," the Forrester analyst tells the Post. (Seven things to know about the Model 3.)