Tesla CEO Elon Musk said on Friday the Model 3 had over half a million advance reservations as he handed over the first 30 to employee buyers, setting the stage for the biggest test yet of the company's strategy to become a profitable, mass market electric vehicle maker.
Tesla is counting on the Model 3 to help turn the cash-losing company into a profitable one, and its event later on Friday at its factory in Fremont, California comes as the auto maker's stock trades down 12 percent from a record high set in June.
When plugged into Tesla's superchargers, it will take 30 minutes to add 130 miles of range to the battery.
The first batch of the affordable electric vehicles emerged from the company's California factory on Friday, kick-starting an ambitious production drive that many think could revolutionise the industry. "We're going to do everything we can to get you a vehicle as soon as possible".
Tesla now sells only two luxury models of its electric vehicles: the "Model S" sedan and the "Model X" SUV whose base price starts at around US$80,000. Musk said a yearly production rate of 250,000 Model 3s can be built in the same factory square footage as can turn out 50,000 Model S sedans, and he promised further improvements over time. Buyers ordering now are being told to expect delivery late next year. The first 30 cars were delivered in a special handoff event, live.
The bills of Model 3 regarding the Tesla is slightly smaller than the Model S version. "Model 3, it serves its objective for getting people involved with electric vehicles who might not otherwise be able to", said Tesla owner Dee Duncan.
A crowd of thousands - mostly Tesla employees - goes wild.
"We're going to do everything we can to make cars as fast we can", he said. Now we're talking about moving to level 4 and quickly to level 5 where you, the driver won't be needed much longer as the complex array of cameras and sensors, layered with proprietary Tesla software enables the vehicle to drive itself. The Model 3 will also be one of the lowest cost EVs, while sporting one of the highest ranges on the market. But the price can rapidly increase from there. Eighteen-inch wheels come standard; 19-inch sport wheels are $1,500 extra.
Customers who've placed Model 3 deposits receive regular updates on a "My Tesla" web page, and as their vehicle gets closer to production, they'll gain access to an online configurator, allowing final choice of colour and options.
Potential customers could lose faith if Tesla doesn't meet its aggressive production schedule, or if the cars have quality problems that strain Tesla's small service network.
Production of the Model 3 is expected to ramp up significantly over time.
Cars powered by green energy are consistent with a concern for the environment seen in Musk's other enterprises.
The Model 3, he said, was designed from the outset with mass production in mind to push down cost and crank cars out quickly.
We also got a longer look at the finished Model 3 interior, including that large front screen mounted horizontally rather than vertically, as in the Model S and Model X. It's made primarily of steel, not aluminum.
For drivers outside of the USA who need right hand driver cars, those are going to take longer.
Tesla's fans are confident. Manish Gupta ordered one. But that tax credit only lasts until the company reaches 200,000 electric vehicles sold in the United States, and Tesla has already sold more than 100,000 vehicles.
"A decade ago they were a little more than golf carts".