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The Tesla Model 3 Highland is the facelift of Tesla’s cheapest EV. And while the Model 3 desperately needs a refresh, early shots aren’t exciting Tesla’s most fervent fans. That’s bad news for the EV automaker. Especially so, since Elon Musk continues alienating environmentally conscious buyers and electric vehicle competition is hotter than ever.

What’s new about the Tesla Model 3 Highland design?

On October 11th, Reddit user NO_Regular_8542 posted photos of the updated Tesla Model 3 Highland in the Bay Area. The new design includes slimmer LED headlights and a more pronounced lower grille section. Around back, a new tail light design is reminiscent of Polestar’s sharp C-shaped lighting, minus the strip across the trunk lid. Notably, the hardpoints of the Model 3 Highland are identical to the current car, so the proportions and roofline remain unchanged.

Tesla fans react to the Model 3 Highland updates

For most, the new Tesla Model 3 design is a simple evolution. It’s inoffensive, unlike some of Musk’s recent antics. But among Tesla’s biggest fans, the Model 3 Highland has landed with a thud. User dvrwin stated, “In all honesty, the front end is not doing it for me. The old was very unique looking. The headlight design is too small.”

This modest critique received 98 upvotes, and garnered a highlighted reply that stated the following. From user Dorkmaster79, “I was psyched about the refresh, but I have to admit I am disappointed by this picture of the front end. It just looks like a vanilla sedan.” They’re not wrong, but it’s not like the current Model 3 was breaking necks, either.

Going through the rest of the thread, many Tesla fans dislike the low-profile headlights and the new front-end design as a whole. Other points of consternation include the new wheel designs, the bland nature of the design, and its departure from the Model 3’s previous character.

Black and Red 2024 Tesla Model 3 Highland models
2024 Tesla Model 3 Highland | Vernon Yuen/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Why this is a problem for Tesla

Like it or not, Tesla ushered in the EV revolution. It wasn’t until the Model S proved an EV could be both functional and enjoyable that buyers began to take the electric vehicle concept seriously. And despite issues with build quality, its vaporware products like the Cybertruck and new Tesla Roadster, and high repair bills, eco-conscious buyers jumped at Tesla’s promise of an emissions-free driving experience that didn’t compromise on range or convenience.

The American EV brand pioneered charging station infrastructure in a way that no other brand can keep up with. And while Tesla’s lineup is aging, each of its four existing models offers an accessible and attractive driving experience.

But those same eco-conscious buyers have other ethical qualms with Elon Musk. His purchase of the website formerly known as Twitter shone a light on Musk’s bizarre world views (CBS News), self-serving nature, and racist rhetoric (Rolling Stone). To keep it brief, if politics affect everything, Elon is painting his own company into a difficult corner.

Tesla needs its biggest fans more than ever

2024 Tesla Model 3 Highland from the rear
2024 Tesla Model 3 Highland | Costfoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Ardent Tesla fans disliking a new product design is unusual. Those willing to go to bat to defend Tesla’s build quality as part of being on the cutting edge are the core group the brand can depend on. If they don’t appreciate the new Model 3 design, Tesla may be headed for more trouble than it realizes.

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