Tesla delivers first Model 3 cars in historic moment
Tesla Motors unveils the new lower-priced Model 3 sedan.
Fremont - Tesla aims to produce 5,000 units of the Model 3 a week this year, and 10,000 units a week in 2018
Tesla began delivering on a dream to make an electric car for the masses, rolling out the first of its keenly-awaited "Model 3" cars, aiming to disrupt a world accustomed to automobiles powered by pollution-spewing fossil fuel.
An initial batch of the 'Model 3' cars that rolled out of the Tesla plant in Fremont, California late Friday were given to customers, most of whom were employees of the company.
Tesla founder and chief Elon Musk proclaimed it a great day for the company, saying the goal was to make a terrific electric car "that everyone can buy." Musk starred in a ceremony at the plant delivering the first batch to their owners.
"It's the best car for its cost, either electric or gasoline," he said.
Production of the electric car aimed at the broader market - with a starting price of $35,000 - will ramp up quickly, according to Musk, with 100 in August and 1,500 or more in September.
Tesla aims to produce 5,000 units of the Model 3 a week this year, and 10,000 units a week in 2018.
Tesla already sells "S" and "X" model electric cars, but with a starting price of $80,000 they have been seen as wheels for the wealthy.
The Model 3 silhouette resembles that of the Model S, but the new electric ride is smaller with a simpler design.
The vehicle's battery was designed to keep it going for "at least 215 miles" (345 kilometers) before needing to be recharged, according to Tesla. A battery with a longer range is available for more money.
Musk has mentioned in Tesla earnings calls that while early models were packed with innovative engineering, they caused vexation on the assembly line.
The Model 3, he said, was designed from the outset with mass production in mind to push down cost and crank cars out quickly.
More than a half-million customers have placed deposits to get on the waiting list for the Model 3, and anyone wanting one will have to wait at least until 2018.
"Demand is not a challenge there," Musk said, noting that most of the orders have been in the US.
A big question for Tesla is whether it can ramp up production to meet demand and whether rivals will cut into the electric vehicle market.
Like its predecessors, the Model 3 is fully electric and on-board computers can handle some driving tasks.
Tesla referred to the arrival of the Model 3 as a "crucial step" in the company's mission to speed the transition to renewable energy.
Not long after Tesla was founded in 2003, Musk said the plan was to use money from high-end electric vehicles to create more affordable offerings to make the technology the new automotive norm.
Cars powered by green energy are consistent with a concern for the environment seen in Musk's other enterprises.
Musk runs solar energy firm SolarCity, and is building rechargeable batteries to power homes as well as cars.
His Boring Company is part of a vision for near-supersonic rail travel through low-pressure tubes that he laid out in a Hyperloop white paper he made open to other entrepreneurs.
Combined sales of Model S and Model X vehicles in the first half of this year were estimated to tally from 47,000 to 50,000.
With the Model 3, Tesla hopes to start cranking out hundreds of thousands of cars annually.
Success of the Model 3 could put in the rear-view mirror concerns about Tesla's prospects for growth.
So far, Musk's strategy has paid off. Even though most major car makers sell electric vehicles, Tesla practically defines the category.
The rush of pre-orders allowed Tesla to recently become the biggest US car company in terms of market capitalization, despite the fact that General Motors (GM) and Ford produce millions of cars per year and Tesla has yet to make a profit.
While Tesla is scrambling to meet Model 3 demand, GM has temporarily halted production of its 'Bolt' electric car to eas ease inventories.
Some analysts say that with the launch, Tesla may be reshaping the future of the auto industry.
Gene Munster, analyst with the research firm Loup Ventures, argues that Tesla may do for the auto sector what Apple did for smartphones and electronics.
"We believe we will eventually look back at the launch of the Model 3 and compare it to the iPhone, which proved to be the catalyst for the shift to mobile computing," Munster said in a recent research note.
Munster says Tesla will play a central role in "paradigm shifts" to electric and autonomous vehicles that could transform the sector.
What we know about Tesla's new Model 3 sedanTesla Inc. delivered the new electric Model 3 compact car to its first 30 customers - all employees - on Friday evening. The car starts at $35,000, which is half the cost of Tesla's previous models, so it has the potential to attract many more customers to the brand. Already, around 500,000 people worldwide have paid $1,000 to reserve a car, Tesla CEO Elon Musk says.
Here are some details about the Model 3:
PRICE: The starting price of the Model 3 is $35,000. A version with every available option, including longer range, partial self-driving capability, special paint (it costs $1,000 to get any color besides black) and sport wheels costs $59,500. That includes $3,000 for "full self-driving capability," which Tesla promises sometime in the future.
TAX CREDITS: In the U.S., where sales will begin, the Model 3 is eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit, but that credit is likely to begin phasing out next year after Tesla sells more than 200,000 vehicles in the U.S. Many states offer additional tax credits, including California, Colorado and New York.
SIZE: The Model 3 is 184.8 inches (15.3 ft./4.3 meters) long and 72.8 inches (6 ft./1.8 meters) wide, which is similar in size to a BMW 3 Series. The Model 3 can comfortably seat five adults.
RANGE: The base model can go an estimated 220 miles (354 kilometers) on a charge. For a $9,000 upgrade, customers can get a long-range version that goes 310 miles (498 kilometers) on a charge.
PERFORMANCE: The base model goes from 0-60 miles per hour (96.5 kph) in 5.6 seconds and has a top speed of 130 mph (209 kph). The long-range version goes from 0-60 mph (96.5 kph) in 5.1 seconds and has a top speed of 140 mph (225 kph).
CHARGING: The base model can get 130 miles (209 km) of range in 30 minutes at a Tesla Supercharger or 30 miles (48 km) of range per hour with a 240-volt home charger. The long-range model can get 170 miles (273.5 kph) of range in 30 minutes at a Supercharger or 37 miles (59.5) of range per hour with a home charger.
FEATURES: The Model 3 has some surprises. There is no instrument panel; the odometer and other details normally there can all be found on a center screen. That let engineers give the car a more spacious, less cluttered feel. There are no traditional air conditioning vents; they're hidden within the dashboard and the driver can control the direction of the airflow from the center screen. There's also no key fob. The Model 3 can be opened, started and locked using a smartphone or a card that comes with the car.
EXTRAS: The cameras, radar and other hardware for Autopilot, Tesla's partially self-driving system, will be on all cars, but customers have to pay $5,000 for the whole suite of semi-autonomous capabilities, including automatic lane-changing and self-parking. There's also a separate $5,000 premium package that comes with 12-way power adjustable seats, wood decor and a tinted glass roof. Eighteen-inch wheels come standard; 19-inch sport wheels are $1,500 extra.
ORDERING: People reserving a car now will likely get it in late 2018. Versions with the long-range battery will be delivered first, starting this summer; base models will follow in the fall. West Coast customers will get their cars first. The cars will start to ship overseas late next year, with right-hand-drive versions coming in 2019.