Tesla Hints at “Late 2017” Production Date for $35k Model 3
Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, was not very precise this week when he talked about production timing for the Model 3, the company’s planned $35,000 200-mile electric car. "We are hoping to show the Model 3 in March of next year,” said Musk. He quickly added, “Don’t super-hold me to that month. That’s our aspiration.”
That’s the current timing for the first unveiling of the Model 3, perhaps the most highly anticipated car of the electric vehicle era. Actual production would start in mid- or late-2017. "Late 2017 is probably more realistic," said Musk.
The company, and the industry, sees the Model 3 as the culmination of about a decade of planning and work on Tesla’s part, and the turning point for when longer-range battery-powered vehicles go mainstream. With its relatively affordable $35,000 price tag, Tesla hopes to sell as many as 500,000 units per year.
If Musk is imprecise about the timing, it’s because he does not want to repeat what happened when the company repeatedly changed its communications about timing for the Tesla Model X SUV. At this stage, some customers have had reservations and deposits for more than three years.
Musk unveiled the Model X prototype on February 9, 2012, promising the first deliveries by the end of 2013. Eleven months later on Jan. 13, 2013, Musk—while visiting the Detroit auto show—indicated “the second half of 2014” as a launch target. That got pushed to late 2014 in a subsequent financial statement, and in February 2014, back again to spring 2015. Speaking during Tesla’s earning call on Feb. 11 of this year, Musk said that he is “highly confident of delivering our first customer cars this summer and then spooling up to significant volume in Q4.”
On the earnings call this week, Musk referred to the Model X, explaining that it’s “on track for start of deliveries in late Q3.” This comment essentially represents another minor delay to around September, rather than the summer. If this target is met, the sum total of delays will be about two year between the first announced schedule and the first actual deliveries.
Tesla is a more mature company than it was in 2012, when the Model X was introduced. Yet, the scale of its ambitions is much higher for the Model 3. Regardless, the company appears willing to set ambitious targets, and then change the dates if an aggressive schedule isn’t met. So, we can only wait to see if the current target of late 2017 for the Model 3 becomes a reality or, if during a future earnings call, production timing shifts to 2018.
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