Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk said Friday that “pre-orders” for the Model 3 electric car had hit 198,000, an encouraging sign a day after the novel vehicle aimed at a mass market was unveiled here to an enthusiastic crowd.
The Model 3 drove onto a stage through a curtain of fog at a lavish ceremony in a converted hangar adjoining the SpaceX factory in this Los Angeles suburb. Tesla CEO Musk vowed that the car will seat five, hit the highest safety marks and have a range of at least 215 miles a charge.
While its performance won’t be nearly as breathtaking as its larger sibling, the super-luxury Model S, will be impressive: Zero to 60 miles per hour in less than 6 seconds. To prove the point, Tesla offered test rides with a long straightaway in which the car hurtled down a side road at push-you-back-in-your-seat speeds in near silence.
The Model 3, Musk said, will be priced at $35,000, about half the cost of its two current models, the Model S sedan and Model X crossover. Musk tweeted Friday that with options, the average order was closer to $42,000. The car is considered critical to Tesla’s success, its first attempt to lure average car buyers — not just the rich — to electric vehicles.
Initial reaction to the car appeared favorable. After lines formed outside Tesla showrooms around the country where customers could make reservations for a refundable $1,000, which it terms “pre-orders.” Musk announced the figures had hit 115,000 by the time the car was revealed. Then on Friday, Musk tweeted that the order bank had hit 180,000, then later that it was 198,000. “Future of electric cars looking bright!,” he wrote.
Tesla “will set the all time record for any consumer tech company,” wrote Trip Chowdhry, analyst for Global Equities Research, in a note before the unveiling. Musk says Tesla is aiming to produce 500,000 cars a year, up from about 50,000 last year. To accomplish the goal, Tesla is building what Musk says will be the largest lithium-ion battery factory in the world outside Reno, Nev.
The car’s profile is similar to the Model S, lacking any adornment on the front where a grille would normally be. Musk says the car has trunks both front and rear. The extra space is due to its lack of a gas engine since it has only batteries and electric motors. Inside, the car has a huge screen on the center console like other Teslas, though it is slightly smaller than on the Model S or X. It is also distinguished by a huge glass roof over both the front and rear seats, which Musk says affords better headroom.
Experts say they expect different versions of the Model 3, some fancier than others. In the process, it could experience price creep.
“Tesla has a history of introducing a vehicle with a reasonably low price and then selling versions that are much more expensive,” says Jack Nerad, executive editorial director for Kelley Blue Book, in a statement. “There was no mention of EV’s major Achilles’ heel — recharge time. The 215-mile range and low recharge times make EVs (electric vehicles) impractical for many buyers.”
Musk says Model 3 cars will start delivery to customers in late 2017.
In another plus for the Model 3, Musk says it will have access to Tesla’s Supercharger network, which will be expanded. Superchargers are high speed recharging units, both in cities and on major highways.