“A friend asked me at a party, ‘What are you going to name the third-generation car?’ Well, we have the S and the X, so we might as well make it the E,” the Tesla CEO told CNNMoney in 2014.
But when Tesla attempted to register the E trademark for a model, Ford stepped in to block it, according to Automotive News. Ford hauled out a 2010 agreement between the companies that prevented Tesla from using the letter for a car name.
Even though Ford hadn’t used it for a production vehicle, the company contended that Model E sounded too similar to the original mass-market hit automobile: the Model T.
“We’re like, ‘Ford’s killing SEX,’” Musk said in 2014. “So, OK, fine we won’t use Model E.”
True to form, Musk found a workaround. The third vehicle in Tesla’s lineup was dubbed the Model 3 — a clever substitute for a backward uppercase letter E. The carmaker subsequently added a sport utility vehicle, the Model Y.