Tesla de­liv­ers first lower-cost Model 3 cars

Long-promised af­ford­able elec­tric car un­veiled

The Korea Times - - WORLD BUSINESS -

FRE­MONT, Calif. (AP) — Tesla Inc. has fi­nally made its long-promised af­ford­able elec­tric car. But it could take years to get it to all the peo­ple who want to buy it.

Tesla de­liv­ered the Model 3 small car to its first 30 cus­tomers — all em­ploy­ees — at a com­pany party Fri­day night. CEO Elon Musk said Tesla will build the cars as fast as it can, but ac­knowl­edged that sup­ply is­sues and other com­plex­i­ties will make it tough to reach his goal of mak­ing 500,000 cars next year. Four­teen-year-old Tesla has never made more than 100,000 cars in a year.

“We’re go­ing to go through at least six months of man­u­fac­tur­ing hell,” Musk told re­porters Fri­day at Tesla’s Fre­mont fac­tory. “It’s go­ing to be quite a chal­lenge to build this car.”

With its $35,000 start­ing price — half the cost of Tesla’s pre­vi­ous mod­els — and range of up to 310 miles (498 km), the Model 3 could bring hun­dreds of thou­sands of cus­tomers into the au­tomaker’s fold, tak­ing it from a niche lux­ury brand to the main­stream.

Musk said around 500,000 peo­ple world­wide have al­ready put down a $1,000 de­posit to re­serve a Model 3. Peo­ple or­der­ing a car now likely won’t get it un­til late 2018. Cars will go first to em­ploy­ees and cus­tomers on the West Coast; over­seas de­liv­er­ies start late next year, and right-hand drive ver­sions come in 2019.

The Model 3 has long been part of Palo Alto, Calif.-based Tesla’s plans. In 2006, Musk said Tesla would even­tu­ally build “af­ford­ably priced fam­ily cars” af­ter es­tab­lish­ing it­self with high-end ve­hi­cles like the Model S, which starts at $69,500. This is the first time many Tesla work­ers will be able to af­ford a Tesla.

“It was never our goal to make ex­pen­sive cars. We wanted to make a car ev­ery­one could buy,” Musk said. “If you’re try­ing to make a dif­fer­ence in the world, you also need to make cars peo­ple can af­ford.”

For the base price, cus­tomers will get a Model 3 with 220 miles (322 km) of range. But the price can rapidly in­crease from there. Black is the only stan­dard color, for ex­am­ple; any other color is $1,000 ex­tra. A fully loaded Model 3 with 310 miles of range and Tesla’s full semi-au­ton­o­mous Au­topilot sys­tem costs a hefty $59,500.

That could be a stretch for some buy­ers, es­pe­cially since there are lim­its on the $7,500 U.S. tax credit for elec­tric cars. Once an au­tomaker sells 200,000 elec­tric cars in the U.S., the credit phases out. Tesla has al­ready sold more than 126,000 ve­hi­cles since 2008, ac­cord­ing to es­ti­mates by Ward­sAuto, so not ev­ery­one who buys a Model 3 will be el­i­gi­ble.

Po­ten­tial cus­tomers also could lose faith if Tesla doesn’t meet its ag­gres­sive pro­duc­tion sched­ule, or if the cars have qual­ity prob­lems that strain Tesla’s small ser­vice net­work. The com­pact Model 3 may not en­tice a global mar­ket that’s in­creas­ingly shift­ing to SUVs, in­clud­ing all-elec­tric SUVs from Audi and oth­ers go­ing on sale soon.

“There are more rea­sons to think that it won’t be suc­cess­ful than it will,” says Karl Brauer, the ex­ec­u­tive pub­lisher for Cox Au­to­mo­tive, which owns Au­to­trader and other car buy­ing sites.

But Musk says Tesla worked hard to make the Model 3 sim­pler and cheaper to make than Tesla’s pre­vi­ous ve­hi­cles. It has one dash­board screen, not two. It doesn’t have the fancy door han­dles that caused prob­lems on the Model S, or the gull-wing doors of the Model X SUV. It’s made pri­mar­ily of steel, not alu­minum. It has no in­stru­ment panel; the speed limit and other in­for­ma­tion nor­mally there can be found on the cen­ter screen. It doesn’t even have a key fob; driv­ers can open and lock the car with a smart­phone or a key card.

Tesla’s fans are con­fi­dent. Robin San­tucci was one of the first in line to or­der a Model 3 at the Santa Mon­ica, Cal­i­for­nia, Tesla store in March 2016. He still doesn’t know when he’ll get a car or ex­actly what it will look like, but he’s al­ready in­stalled charg­ing equip­ment in his garage.

“I be­lieve in the vi­sion Tesla has,” said San­tucci, who works in dig­i­tal ad­ver­tis­ing.

Reuters-Yon­hap

Tesla in­tro­duces one of the first Model 3 cars off the Fre­mont fac­tory’s pro­duc­tion line dur­ing an event at the com­pany’s fa­cil­i­ties in Fre­mont, Calif., Fri­day.

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