France made headlines this July after announcing that it would ban the sale of diesel and gasoline powered vehicles by 2040. The move comes as part of France's commitment to meeting its Paris climate accord targets. France has long been a proponent of electric vehicles (EVs): in 2008, the French government began offering environmental bonuses to any person or company who purchases new cars with low CO2 emissions. According to a French Government website, the current bonus amounts to €6300 (roughly $7330). Moreover, France boasts the largest EV market in Europe. In turn, Europe has the second-largest EV market in the world, currently led by the United States. In 2015, the French EV market grew 47.5% over the year before. In 2016, it grew another 28.5%.
The EV market in France is dominated by the strategic partnership between Renault and Nissan, makers of the best-selling Zoe and LEAF electric cars. Other competitors include Bolloré Bluecar, the BMW i3, and the Peugeot iOn. While Tesla is the biggest EV seller in the United States, it only ranked #5 in France in 2015 and #9 in 2016, though its Model S continues to hold a large share of the EU's luxury vehicle market. Even so, the company still saw a 115% increase in 2015 sales over the previous year in France, though sales appear to have dipped last year. That could change as Tesla ramps up production for its new Model 3, which has reached over 400,000 reservations so far and is competitively priced at $35,000. According to Recode.com, the company plans on bumping monthly production from 100 cars starting in August to 20,000 by December, with a goal of building 500,000 cars a year by the end of 2018.
Enter The Model 3
Tesla's Model 3 is slightly more than half the cost of the Model S and approximates the price of the #2-selling Nissan Leaf, though it's still roughly $12 thousand more than the cheapest version of the market-leading Renault Zoe. Performance-wise, however, it crushes the competition. According to Venture Beat, the base Model 3 accelerates from 0 - 60 mph in 5.6 seconds – more than twice as fast as the Zoe's comparatively sluggish 13.5 and easily exceeding Leaf's 10 seconds – with a range of over 215 miles on a single charge on its standard battery pack. In addition, the Model 3 will come standard with Tesla's Autopilot hardware, with full self-driving capability available for $3000 more. Autopilot, which was released last year, has forced Renault-Nissan to play catch-up.
Finally, Tesla's consumer appeal as a brand may be its biggest selling point. Visually, the Model 3 looks like a cut-down version of the Model S with the same sleek, familiar lines. This is no accident: the car is being marketed as a less expensive version of the Model S, with Elon Musk calling it "a smaller, more affordable version of Model S w less range & power & fewer features" on Twitter and the company taking pains to mention that their "higher priced premium models still include the most advanced technology and the best driving experience (they) have to offer." This could lead many to view it as the EV version of "affordable luxury:" an initiatory or entry-level foray into a brand that conveys status and taste.
All this will be settled once the Model 3 is introduced to Europe in 2018. Until then, the EV market will undoubtedly continue to attract competition throughout France and the rest of the E.U. as the combustion engine is slowly laid to rest along the roads of progress.