DETROIT (AFP, REUTERS) - Orders for the much-hyped Tesla Model 3, a cheaper version of its electric car aimed at the mass market, have surged to 276,000 in just three days, company founder Elon Musk said on Sunday (April 3).
The figure is staggering and could represent both an evolution for Tesla and for electric cars, said the Wall Street Journal.
Amid reports of queues to snap up the vehicle, Mr Musk tweeted: "276k Model 3 orders by end of Sat." And in a subsequent tweet, he added: "A Model 3 order gives you priority in your geography, so, even tho total count is high, ordering early will make a big difference locally."
With the Model 3, a compact sedan unveiled Thursday, Tesla aims to show it can appeal to the general public and produce cars en masse.
The base price is half that of Tesla's luxury Model S and the Model X, which start at US$70,000.
Mr Musk said Thursday that orders had passed 115,000 worldwide and hinting that demand was outstripping expectation later tweeted: "Definitely going to need to rethink production planning..."
The Model 3 may not begin to reach customers for another 18 months or more.
Mr Musk tweeted on Friday that it will sell at an average price of US$42,000 (S$56,630), including the price of options and additional features, which would give the initial flurry of orders an estimated retail value of US$10.6 billion.
The intense interest, fanned in part by a steady stream of tweets by Mr Musk, could help boost Tesla's stock price, which closed on Friday at US$237.59, up 3.4 per cent. The stock has soared more than 60 per cent since hitting a 12-month low in February.
The car's average selling price projected by Musk is well above the US$35,000 base price. Based on that price, The Straits Times reported last Friday that the car could cost less than S$150,000 in Singapore after a carbon rebate.
Analysts earlier had estimated the first Model 3s off the factory line in Fremont, California, could be loaded with extra equipment and sell for US$50,000 to US$60,000.
Tesla has undertaken a costly expansion of the Fremont plant, aiming to boost annual capacity to 500,000 by 2020, with production of the Model 3, the company's first mass-market car, ramping up slowly through 2019.
Some analysts said the company could have trouble filling all the initial Model 3 orders, which are accompanied by a refundable US$1,000 deposit, until 2020.
Barclays analyst Brian Johnson on Friday said the heavy influx of Model 3 orders "sets the stage for an equity offering" later this year by Tesla, much of which would go towards factory construction and product development.
Mr Johnson had estimated Tesla could take 250,000 to 300,000 orders for the car by the end of June.