Henry Ford famously told people that they could order a Ford Model T in any color they liked, so long as it was black. More than a century later, Tesla seems to be taking a page from Ford's playbook.
Speaking with investors yesterday, Tesla's CEO, Elon Musk, said that the company will initially offer shoppers just two options on the new Model 3 sedan: color and wheels.
While not as limited as Ford's Model T menu, curtailing consumer choice should help speed production of Tesla's highly anticipated, mass-market electric car. That would be important with any new vehicle, but it'll be doubly so with the Model 3.
While Tesla has build an increasingly large fan base over the past several years, it's taken heat for the production delays that have plagued all of its new models, particularly the Model X. As Tesla begins its transition from niche automaker to industry dominator, it needs to prove that it has the discipline and foresight to set and meet production deadlines.
The chances for flubbing that with the Model 3 are especially high due to strong demand for the new vehicle. Last summer, the number of folks who'd put down $1,000 to reserve one of the $35,000 cars stood at 373,000. Even if that number hasn't grown--which seems unlikely--that's a significant number of pre-orders to account for. Limiting options could ensure that all of those customers get their cars faster, keeping them happy even if they don't have as many opportunities for customization.
Musk didn't go into detail about exactly which color or wheel choices would be available on the Model 3. He did, however, indicate that over time, buyers would have a wider range of options. We would assume that some of those options would be longer battery range, sound packages, and custom interior finishes.
That said, Tesla may not broaden the Model 3's menu too much. Musk clearly doesn't want the new model to cannibalize sales of the company's premium sedan, the Model S. The question is: can limiting options move potential Model 3 buyers up to the doubly expensive Model S?