Will the Tesla Model 3 Be On Time? Here’s What We Know

By · March 08, 2017


Tesla Model 3

It’s been nearly a year since Tesla revealed the Model 3, its upcoming affordable small electric car. The company quickly collected hundreds of thousands of deposits for the small 215-mile EV, suggesting that the Model 3 will achieve its lofty goal: making a fast and fun Tesla EV accessible for the masses.

Tesla said it would begin Model 3 production by July and ramp up to producing 5,000 cars by the end of 2017. The company’s goal by the end of 2018 is to reach a production pace of 500,000 Model 3s a year.

Eager shoppers on the Model 3 waiting list celebrated in late February when Tesla management said it was on track. “We're still in great shape,” said Tesla CFO Jason Wheeler, in an earnings call. That sounded promising, but unfortunately chief executive Elon Musk announced on the same call that Wheeler would be leaving the company. Bloomberg reported that a number of high-level executives had recently left Tesla under the stress of meeting the Model 3’s aggressive timeline. “The pressure of getting out the Model 3 is getting to everybody, from the people on the factory floor to the people at the top,” said AutoPacific analyst Dave Sullivan.

Given the big-time anticipation for the Model 3, it’s not surprising that observers are second-guessing the timing. For example, there’s been a lot of hand-wringing around the lack of a so-called Beta Prototype that was expected for the Model 3. Musk said that the Model 3 design was finalized last summer. So by now, observers were expecting to see prototypes for the company to evaluate for at least three to six months before the start of production.

The importance and critical timing of such as a prototype are debatable. It largely depends on how aggressive Tesla wants to be with moving into production and taking some risks on quality for the first models. There is speculation that most of the first models off the line this summer and fall would go to employees and insiders—allowing the company to celebrate the beginning of production on time, while still giving it time to quickly fix any quality issues before ramping up production for regular buyers. A similar strategy was employed for early Model S and Model X vehicles.

Meanwhile, eager Tesla fans who have a deposit on the Model 3 are counting the day until the company makes its Model 3 Design Studio online configurator available. That’s expected in early June.

Model3Tracker.info, a volunteer website run by Tesla fans, conducted a poll of about 6,300 Tesla Model 3 reservation holders revealing that 93 percent of buyers will upgrade the car well beyond its $35,000 starting price. About 40 percent will pay for a bigger battery pack for longer range, while more than 65 percent will upgrade with Autopilot assisted-driving features.

But exactly when those thousands of buyers will have the opportunity to put a Model 3 in their driveway will not be known at least for a couple more months.

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