This week, when I left for the IAA in Munich, I began my journey in one of my least favorite spots: the rear seat of a Tesla Model 3.
Do not misunderstand me—I like driving the Model 3, and I do not just mean that I let Autopilot have all the pleasure. But a ride-hailed Model 3 journey to the airport made me remember why those back seats have never won any prizes. One of the primary selling points of the 2024 Tesla Model 3, which made its public premiere this week at the German automotive and mobility trade exhibition only days after its reveal and the first first-drive testing went viral online, is fixing that issue.
Even after just a few days of the public section of the exhibition in Munich, the once-code-named “Highland” car continued to draw throngs of incredulous onlookers, including both staff of rival manufacturers and the general public. A Tesla representative informed me that there were long lines of people waiting to view the automobile from all around the world. In all honesty, I’ve never seen this much hoopla for what is essentially a facelift for a sedan that is six years old.
Then all, we’re talking about Tesla here—the most closely watched yet enigmatic manufacturer on the planet, the one that routinely takes risks.
The very existence of the new Model 3 was genuinely surprising. Tesla is renowned for forgoing promotion, and it hasn’t been present at many car shows in a while. It was strange to see Teslas at an event like this, along with real marketing and communications personnel mingling with attendees while wearing white button-down shirts bearing the Tesla logo. The last time I saw Tesla like this in America was in the middle of the previous decade; since then, it has disbanded its marketing team and the majority of outreach activities that other manufacturers make a big deal out of, but it has done just fine selling vehicles without them.
But times do change. Maybe Elon Musk is recognizing the value of public awareness as he urgently tries to get advertisers back to the social media network once known as Twitter. And there are now more electric vehicles (EVs) available than ever before, almost all of which use a modified version of the Tesla playbook.
The actual reason Tesla traveled to the IAA, in my opinion, may have had something to do with the fact that this time, for a German car show, China stole the show.
IAA’s home clubs, like BMW, Volkswagen, and Mercedes-Benz, are still trying to figure out how to mass produce EVs financially, while China’s electric automakers are essentially breaking down Europe’s door and admitting all of their pals free of charge.