Tesla Model 3 buy­ers antsy for keys, up­dates

De­posits paid months ago, but still no de­fin­i­tive word on de­liv­ery

The Hamilton Spectator - - BUSINESS - CLAIRE BALLENTINE

While his high school class­mates were blow­ing their money on Chipo­tle bur­ri­tos and con­cert tick­ets, Tru­man Hale was sav­ing up for a Tesla. In March of last year, af­ter years of penny pinch­ing, he plunked down a $1,000 de­posit on a Model 3.

Now a 21-year-old stu­dent at Ari­zona State Univer­sity, he’s ea­ger for more in­for­ma­tion about what will be his first car, which he hopes will be de­liv­ered be­fore grad­u­at­ing in De­cem­ber 2018.

“I want to only own elec­tric cars,” he said. “I’m rid­ing a bike be­cause I’m sav­ing for this car.”

Hale is one of hun­dreds of thou­sands of Model 3 reser­va­tion hold­ers in limbo, with de­posits paid but lit­tle clar­ity about the sta­tus of their car — when they’ll get it, which op­tions it’ll come with and what price they’ll ul­ti­mately pay. Many are hop­ing Tesla’s chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Elon Musk will en­lighten them at the han­dover party for the first 30 cus­tomers be­ing we­b­cast Fri­day.

The Model 3, a more ac­ces­si­ble Tesla for those who can’t af­ford the Model S or X, has in­spired fer­vour among elec­tric-car en­thu­si­asts and Musk fans. Priced at $35,000 be­fore op­tions or in­cen­tives, it will be Tesla’s least ex­pen­sive ve­hi­cle yet, and ex­cite­ment over its im­pend­ing re­lease has helped drive the Palo Alto, Calif.based car­maker’s shares up 60 per cent this year.

Still, the lack of in­for­ma­tion has some reser­va­tion hold­ers get­ting antsy.

Tesla re­ported last spring that 373,000 peo­ple had placed de­posits for the Model 3 and hasn’t given up­dated reser­va­tion fig­ures since. Those who have put down de­posits don’t know where they fall in the wait list or what month or year their new cars will be avail­able. A Tesla spokesper­son said more de­tails will be re­leased Fri­day and de­clined to com­ment fur­ther.

The lack of in­for­ma­tion re­ceived from Tesla “makes me 100 per cent more ner­vous,” said Pa­trick Her­rity, a 34-year-old busi­ness con­sul­tant in Vir­ginia who made his Model 3 reser­va­tion on­line. He said he un­der­stands the com­pany is be­ing se­cre­tive to ward off com­peti­tors, but hopes this week’s event will shed more light on his next ride.

What Her­rity wants is a ful­ly­loaded Model 3 with all-wheel drive and a sun­roof — op­tions that won’t be avail­able in the first cars to roll off the as­sem­bly line in Fre­mont, Calif. Musk has said the Model 3 will ini­tially be built with the sim­plest de­sign, un­like the fea­ture-heavy Model X sport util­ity, which was plagued by early pro­duc­tion prob­lems.

Ad­di­tional op­tions will come later, but Her­rity said he doesn’t know whether they’ll be avail­able by the time his num­ber’s called. “I’ve been driv­ing the 2009 Corolla that I bought out of col­lege,” he said. “I want a fun, new car to drive.”

The longer reser­va­tion hold­ers have to wait, the more ex­pen­sive their cars may end up be­ing. The U.S. be­gins to phase out the $7,500 fed­eral tax credit buy­ers re­ceive for pur­chas­ing elec­tric cars once each man­u­fac­turer has sold 200,000 ve­hi­cles. Tesla likely will cross that thresh­old in 2018, ac­cord­ing to Bloomberg New En­ergy Fi­nance pro­jec­tions.

Tesla aims to pro­duce 100 Model 3s in Au­gust and more than 1,500 in Septem­ber, then ramp up to a tar­geted rate of 20,000 a month in De­cem­ber.

Some would-be Model 3 buy­ers may not be will­ing to wait. Hi­lary Bum­gar­ner, who works for a tech­nol­ogy com­pany out­side of Sacra­mento, Calif., said she is con­sid­er­ing can­celling her Model 3 reser­va­tion. She’s wants to see what the Model 3 would cost with her de­sired up­grades, and if she can’t get it by the end of the year, Bum­gar­ner said she’ll in­stead buy a used Model S.

Musk has en­cour­aged reser­va­tion hold­ers to up­grade to the higher-priced Model S, rather than wait for a no-frills Model 3. In May, he told an­a­lysts that Tesla’s net reser­va­tions for the Model 3 “con­tinue to climb week af­ter week” and de­clined to give specifics.

Bum­gar­ner said she thought she would re­ceive no­tice about her spot in line, but Tesla hasn’t de­liv­ered any news. “I’m some­where in the first cou­ple hun­dred thou­sand,” she said.

Other early Model 3 en­thu­si­asts have al­ready backed out. Cathy Gi­l­abert, a 35-year-old vet­eri­nar­ian in Ne­vada, signed up for the new­est Tesla in April 2016 be­fore can­celling six months ago upon re­al­iz­ing she didn’t like the car’s dash­board lay­out or how low to the ground it was. Al­ready a Model S owner, she has her eye on a Model X for its ex­tra room.

David Ven­timiglia said he can­celled his reser­va­tion not be­cause of the car but due to Musk. The 45year-old soft­ware en­gi­neer in San Fran­cisco said he was both­ered by the CEO’s par­tic­i­pa­tion on two of Don­ald Trump’s ad­vi­sory coun­cils and said Musk “made a big show out of step­ping down” af­ter the pres­i­dent pulled the U.S. out of the Paris cli­mate ac­cord.

Ven­timiglia said he got swept up in the fer­vour sur­round­ing the Model 3, with sev­eral friends and his girl­friend all sign­ing up for reser­va­tions.

“That’s not a prac­ti­cal way to ap­proach a car,” he said, adding that he was fully re­im­bursed for the de­posit as promised. “If I want an elec­tric car, there are other elec­tric cars com­ing out sooner.”

TESLA, BLOOMBERG

Hun­dreds of thou­sands of Model 3 reser­va­tion hold­ers are in limbo, with de­posits paid but lit­tle clar­ity about the sta­tus of their car

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