Tesla Model 3 March 'Debut' May Not Be A Car, But...Pictures?

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Much of the electric-car world has been waiting--eagerly, avidly, with bated breath--for next month's unveiling of the Tesla Model 3.

The third-generation electric car from Silicon Valley startup Tesla Motors is promised to offer a 200-mile range at a sticker price of $35,000 before incentives.

Unfortunately, the Model 3's fans may have to wait a while longer to learn much of substance about the car.

DON'T MISS: Tesla Model 3: What We Know About Its $35,000, 200-Mile Electric Car

As Britain's AutoExpress first noted, what's shown late next month could be as little as one or more photos or renderings of the Model 3.

That's per Tesla CEO Elon Musk himself, appearing several days ago at a gathering of Tesla owners in Chambourcy, France.

As usual at such events, he gave a brief company update and then opened the floor to questions--"without, hopefully," he said, "creating some sort of silly news headline, which does happen."

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk speaks to Tesla owners in Chambourcy, France, Jan 2016 [YouTube frame]

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk speaks to Tesla owners in Chambourcy, France, Jan 2016 [YouTube frame]

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Video of the question-and-answer session with Musk includes the following exchange (starting at 12:26):

Q: When will we see pictures of Model 3?

A: The first pictures of the Model 3 will be end of March. Yeah ... I am being a little coy here, we're not gonna show everything about the Model 3 until a lot closer to production time.”

Q: Can you give us some details?

A: No.

ALSO SEE: Most Tesla Engineers Now Working On Model 3: Executive (Oct 2015)

This is hardly a statement that only photos will be shown in March, of course. Tesla has been known to pull surprises out of its hat.

But his words seem to indicate that whatever's shown in March, on a date and at a venue yet to be revealed, may not be as much as many owners and potential buyers had hoped.

If the reveal is confined to photos, rather than a vehicle, it may indicate that Tesla is still deep in development, without even an "alpha" prototype that it's willing to show.

2012 Tesla Model S beta vehicle, Fremont, CA, October 2011

2012 Tesla Model S beta vehicle, Fremont, CA, October 2011

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This roughly follows the precedent set by the Model S and Model X, which were shown in various phases of development long before deliveries to customers started.

The Model S, for example, was announced in June 2008 and first shown as a prototype in March 2009. Tesla gave rides in one of the earliest development vehicles to potential customers the next month.

The car made it into limited production in June 2012, though assembly volume didn't increase until well into 2013. The company now builds about 1,000 Model S cars a week.

CHECK OUT: Is Chevy Bolt EV's Main Mission To Marginalize Tesla Electric Cars?

Tesla originally said in mid-2013 that the Model 3 would go into production late this year.

That has now been revised to the end of 2017 or early 2018, though many observers remain skeptical about that proposed timeline.

Whatever happens in March, however much or little is revealed, the Tesla Model 3 will continue to draw attention from company and electric-car advocates and the press.

2016 Tesla Model X

2016 Tesla Model X

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But it will not be the sole car of its range and price, as the Roadster, the Model S, and the Model X all have been.

With the first sale of the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV likely within the year--and Nissan, BMW, and Volkswagen scrambling to match its 200-mile range and $37,500 price--it seems as though the Model 3 will have similar specs to several other cars by the time deliveries start.

Being a Tesla, of course, could give it an edge in the market.

And Tesla's fast-growing Supercharger network of quick-charging stations is nowhere near being duplicated by any other maker(s).

As for that "silly news headline" ... sorry, Elon.

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