Consumer companies usually spend time and effort in coming up with their product names. There are brainstorming sessions, focus groups, and legions of consultants who determine which names will appeal to which target demographic. But Tesla, the world’s biggest electric carmaker, seems to employ a decidedly unconventional method of naming its prize products.
Tesla has two variants of its electric cars – the Model S and the Model X. When Tesla was coming up with a new variant of its car, a friend supposedly asked Musk at a party what they’d be calling their latest car, as they already had a Model S and a Model X. “Model E,” joked Musk. It wasn’t a particularly great gag – Musk had said E because then the three Tesla models would be called S, E, and X, which together would spell out “sex”. But nerdy Tesla engineers thought the joke was hilarious, and the name stuck.
That’s when rival Ford threw a spanner in the works.
Ford threatened to sue Tesla over the rights to using the name Tesla E. It’s not entirely clear why this happened, but Musk later said at an interview that “Ford tried to kill sex.”
You’d have thought that that was the end of that – Tesla wouldn’t be able to have its little in joke in the names of its car models. But the company wasn’t going to give up so easily – Tesla went ahead and named its newest model the Model 3. Tesla’s three models now spell out the word S3X – which, surprise surprise, is leetspeak for sex.
Model 3 was going to be called Model E, for obvious dumb humor reasons, but Ford sued to block it, so now it is S3X. Totally different
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 24, 2017
Tesla had gone hardcore geek – leetspeak, or l33t, is a form of text used primarily in the tech and hacking communities, where letter are often replaced with letter. An E, for instance, is replaced by a 3, because it kind of looks the mirror image of an E, and an S is replaced by 5. By naming its car the Model 3, Tesla was still keeping its “Sex” joke alive to its core audience.
Tesla thus far had been known for building elaborate cars; they clearly do just as well at building elaborate jokes.