Tesla’s lower-priced Model 3 to start production

VIDEO: REUTERS
The Tesla Model 3 in red and silver.
The Tesla Model 3 in red and silver.PHOTO: EPA

NEW YORK (AFP) – Tesla’s first lower-priced Model 3 will roll off the assembly line Friday, two weeks early, chief executive Elon Musk announced on Monday (July 3).

“Model 3 passed all regulatory requirements for production two weeks ahead of schedule. Expecting to complete SN1 on Friday,” Musk wrote on Twitter, referring to the first car as “serial number 1.”

The production of the electric car aimed at the broader market – with a price of US$35,000 (S$48,000) – is expected to ramp up quickly, Musk said, with 100 in August and 1,500 or more in September.

“Handover party for first 30 customer Model 3’s on the 28th!” he said. The company later said the party would be held at Tesla’s Fremont, California factory.

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“Production grows exponentially,” Musk tweeted. “Looks like we can reach 20,000 Model 3 cars per month in Dec.”

Tesla aims to produce 10,000 units a week in 2018.

The mid-range model, unveiled in March 2016, is a crucial piece of Musk’s ambitions to transform Tesla into a large-scale car manufacturer. It will allow the firm, started in 2003, to produce about 500,000 vehicles in 2018 and a million by 2020.

California-based Tesla currently sells only two luxury electric vehicles: the “Model S” sedan and the “Model X” SUV whose base price starts at around US$80,000. It produced only 84,000 cars in 2016.

The Model 3 has sparked strong demand and customers placing orders now are told they can expect delivery sometime in mid-2018.

The rush of pre-orders allowed Tesla to recently become the biggest US car company in terms of market capitalisation, despite the fact that General Motors (GM) and Ford produce millions of cars per year and Tesla has yet to make a profit.

Tesla was valued at nearly US$60 billion on Monday on Wall Street, compared to US$53 billion for GM and US$45 billion for Ford. But any delay in the Model 3 production schedule could quickly change the attitude of financial markets.

DELIVERIES JUMP IN Q2

Tesla also announced on Monday that it delivered just over 22,000 vehicles in the second quarter – over 12,000 Model S and 10,000 Model X – a 53 per cent surge over the April-June period of 2016. The company delivered approximately 47,100 vehicles in the first half of the year.

The company said deliveries of the two models are expected to ramp up, saying that a “severe production shortfall” of battery packs was the “major factor” affecting deliveries in the quarter, with production 40 per cent below demand until early June.

“Once this was resolved, June orders and deliveries were strong, ranking as one of the best in Tesla history,” the company said in a statement.

In order to avoid backlogs in its production, Tesla is in the process of completing the construction of a huge battery factory in Nevada.