First Tesla Model 3 to be built Fri­day

The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS NEW YORK —

The first Tesla Model 3 elec­tric car for the masses should come off the assem­bly line on Fri­day with the first de­liv­er­ies in late July,

CEO Elon Musk made the an­nounce­ment Mon­day on Twit­ter.

The car is to start around US$35,000 and with a US$7,500 fed­eral elec­tric car tax credit, could cost US$27,500. Tesla says the five-seat car will be able to go 215 miles (346 kilo­me­tres) on a sin­gle charge and will be sporty, ac­cel­er­at­ing from zero to 60 miles per hour in un­der six sec­onds.

Musk had said that pro­duc­tion was on track to start in July, but Tesla has of­ten faced de­lays in get­ting ve­hi­cles to mar­ket. The Palo Alto, Cal­i­for­nia-based com­pany aims to make 5,000 Model 3 sedans per week by the end of this year and 10,000 per week in 2018.

Tesla hasn’t said how many peo­ple have put down $1,000 re­fund­able de­posits for the Model 3, but Musk has said peo­ple who put down a de­posit now won’t get a car un­til the end of 2018, sug­gest­ing it could be close to 500,000.

Whether Tesla can meet its pro­duc­tion goals is an open ques­tion. Its last new ve­hi­cle, the Model X SUV, was de­layed nearly 18 months. Musk says the Model 3 is much sim­pler to make, but 14year-old Tesla has no ex­pe­ri­ence pro­duc­ing and sell­ing ve­hi­cles in high vol­umes. Tesla made just 84,000 cars last year. Big­ger ri­vals like Gen­eral Mo­tors, Volk­swa­gen and Toy­ota rou­tinely sell around 10 mil­lion ve­hi­cles per year.

Even if the Model 3 is on time, ser­vic­ing all those ve­hi­cles will still be a chal­lenge. Model S and Model X own­ers are al­ready wor­ried about hav­ing to share Tesla’s com­pany-owned charg­ing sta­tions with an in­flux of new cars. And while Tesla is promis­ing to in­crease its net­work of stores and ser­vice cen­tres by 30 per cent this year, it be­gan 2017 with just 250 ser­vice cen­tres world­wide. That leaves many po­ten­tial own­ers miles from a ser­vice cen­tre.

Musk has said a new fleet of mo­bile ser­vice trucks will be de­ployed to help cus­tomers who are far from ser­vice cen­tres. Tesla also plans to dou­ble its global high­speed charg­ing points to 10,000 by the end of this year and in­crease them by an­other 50 per cent in 2018. Un­til re­cently, Tesla owned the mar­ket for fully-elec­tric ve­hi­cles that can go 200 miles (324 kilo­me­tres) or more on a charge. But that’s chang­ing. GM beat Tesla to the mass mar­ket with the Chevro­let Bolt, a $36,000 car that goes about 200 miles (324 kilo­me­tres) per charge. Audi plans to in­tro­duce an elec­tric SUV with 300 miles (486 kilo­me­tres) of range next year; Ford will have one by 2020. Volk­swa­gen plans more than 30 elec­tric ve­hi­cle mod­els by 2025.

Au­to­mo­tive com­peti­tors like Mercedes and Volvo — not to men­tion tech com­pa­nies like Google and Uber — can also match Tesla’s ef­forts to de­velop self-driv­ing ve­hi­cles. And they have deeper pock­ets. Tesla has had only two prof­itable quar­ters in its seven years as a pub­lic com­pany.


Tesla Mo­tors un­veils the Model 3 sedan at its de­sign stu­dio in Hawthorne, Calif., in March 2016.

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