Like the company's three previous electric cars, the Tesla Model 3 launched into production with a splashy media event during which owners received the keys to their new cars and the company's fans applauded.
Like the Model S and Model X, production is starting at very low rates, with the rate of increase—to 5,000 cars a week by December 31, CEO Elon Musk says—closely watched by analysts, owners, and advocates.
The Model 3 is the culmination of Tesla's August 2006 "Secret Master Plan," which has played out more or less as Musk envisioned it.
DON'T MISS: Which electric car will history view as most important? Poll results
Accordingly, some commentators and owners have taken to suggesting that the Tesla Model 3 is essentially "Car 2.0," the most important car Tesla has made and perhaps the most important car to date of the 21st century.
We think that notion is a mite overblown.
Instead, we'd suggest that the Tesla Model S of 2012 remains the company's most important vehicle, for the earth-shattering impact it had on the entire automotive industry.
2012 Tesla Model S Signature
It was the first electric car from a new, hip, tech-forward Silicon Valley auto startup that was simultaneously sleek, sexy, and alluring and also entirely emission-free ... and really fast to boot.
Despite shaky quality in its early years, the Model S deeply startled and frightened the German luxury brands, all of which now have multiple vehicles planned to compete with the Model S and its Model X crossover utility vehicle sibling.
With well over 100,000 Model Ses now delivered globally, that car and its equally important Supercharger network of DC fast-charging stations entirely eradicated the nerdy "golf cart" image of electric cars in a way the Nissan Leaf simply never could.
CHECK OUT: 2017 Tesla Model 3 prices, features, details, specifications from Handover Party
The idea that the Tesla Model 3 may be slightly less than the second coming of [fill in deity or deities of your choice] is eloquently presented by electric-car owner and ChargeWay creator Matt Teske.
In a post on his LinkedIn account, he comments on a rhapsodic opinion piece in The Guardian entitled, "The car is dead, long live the car, thanks to Tesla."
He sums it up quite simply:
Chargeway electric-car charging symbols for Chevrolet Volt, BMW i3, Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S
The iPhone comparison [in the article] is wrong. The DAY consumers bought an iPhone their experience with communication changed forever.
Model 3 is not that kind of change for cars, but it's a step. It offers the same utility as other cars: Point A to B, with different energy propulsion.
Not until we can buy Level 5 autonomy will the "iPhone car" moment occur.
We couldn't have put it better ourselves.
Consider the comparisons: the Tesla Model S was the first long-range electric car in mass production. Period.
The Chevy Bolt EV, on the other hand, beat the Model 3 by six months as the first 200-mile-plus electric car under $40,000, and base Model 3s at the quoted $35,000 price aren't even in production yet.
2018 Tesla Model 3
There's no question that the Tesla Supercharger network is an enormous, unmatched asset and a brilliantly forward-looking creation that significantly helped Tesla get to where it is today.
But the Model 3's charging rates aren't necessarily as fast as those of the Model S and Model X, and many of its owners will have to pay for DC fast charging above a certain amount of free usage each year.
The Tesla Model 3 continues to have the potential for significant achievement if Tesla can in fact build and deliver in the ambitious volumes it plans.
With 455,000 deposits received, according to a recent update from the company, it should be able to sell the first year's production handily.
But we still think the Model S will remain the more important and innovative vehicle in the eyes of history.
That's our 2 cents; your mileage may vary.