What's in a name? That which we call a "3" works just as well as an "E," except maybe not for Tesla. The automaker is banking on an upcoming midmarket model to lure more consumers into its fold when the car begins production as early as this summer, per CNN, but the new vehicle's name has caused some confusion. The Los Angeles Times notes CEO Elon Musk wanted to call the new car the Model E, ostensibly so it could be sandwiched between the Model S, the Model X, and the upcoming Model Y to spell "S-E-X-Y." But Ford scooped up the Model E name, so Musk picked what he thought was the next best thing: the Model 3, with the "3" resembling a backward "E." Except "the joke's on me because it's caused confusion in the marketplace," he confessed during a Wednesday earnings call in which Tesla's Q1 loss of $330 million was reported.
As the Washington Post explains, some consumers thought the "3" meant a new, better incarnation of an existing model (the Times says some thought the S was getting an upgrade), leaving Tesla in the odd position of actually having to downplay the Model 3, a "stripped down, cheaper version … suitable for the masses," as the Post describes it, with a starting price of $35,000; the luxury Model S starts at $66,000. As Musk tries to clear up the moniker chaos, others are watching a sneak-peek video of the Model 3, sent to Electrek by an anonymous "friend of the site." The video shows a white version of the car cruising along California roads, exhibiting some refinements from earlier prototypes, but with no evidence to back up Musk's comments last year that the steering controls will feel "like a spaceship," Electrek notes. (Tesla earned the No. 1 US automaker spot a few weeks back.)