- Screenshot via Elon Musk
Tesla will launch the Model 3, its first mass-market vehicle, on Friday night.
The $35,000 all-electric vehicle is Tesla’s bid to enter the mass market and sell hundreds of thousands of cars to customers who haven’t been able to afford the pricey Model S sedan or Model X SUV, each of which costs about $100,000 on average.
So the Model 3 is something of a game changer for Tesla. But it may include some other major changes, starting with a longtime feature of automobiles: the instrument cluster.
- Matthew DeBord/BI
Drivers are accustomed to entering modern vehicles and seeing two gauges: a speedometer, which displays your speed, and a tachometer, which tells you how fast your engine is running, expressed as revolutions per minute.
Years ago, it was common to see only a speedo, but the speedo-tach setup is now routine, though the tach is a useless instrument for drivers who aren’t piloting a Porsche or a Ferrari, where the tach is front and center.
Some vehicles have introduced digital displays and digital speedometers, located either in front of the driver or somewhere on the dashboard. Audi has kept the display in front of the driver but turned it into a “virtual cockpit” that can show a range of customized info.
- Skye Gould/BI Graphics
But it sounds as if Tesla has eliminated the instrument cluster and will use only a large, central infotainment touchscreen to control most vehicle functions and display the data that the good ol’ analog cluster, with its round gauges, used to. (We don’t know for sure because we haven’t seen interior shots yet, but we checked with Tesla to see whether it could confirm the rumors, fueled by some tweets from CEO Elon Musk earlier this year.)
There’s solid manufacturing logic behind this. No instrument cluster means the dash can be cleaner and easier to assemble and install. There was some speculation that Tesla would replace the instrument cluster with a heads-up display, projecting at least speed onto the windshield, but it seems that hasn’t happened.
As Musk has noted, the Model 3 was designed for mass production, which, at the scale that Tesla contemplates – millions of vehicles annually – requires procedural simplicity. Anything you can eliminate is good, even the well-known instrument panel.