500,000 advance reservations

TESLA chief executive officer Elon Musk said yesterday the Model 3 had more than half-a-million advance reservations as he handed over the first 30 to employee buyers, setting the stage for the biggest test yet of the company’s strategy to become a profitable, mass market electric car maker.

Outside Tesla’s Fremont, California factory, Mr Musk showed off the $35,000 base vehicle with a range of 220 miles (350km) on a charge that marks a departure from the company’s earlier luxury electric cars.

Mr Musk took to the stage driving a red Model 3, and said Tesla had produced 50 of the vehicles so far, including 20 for testing purposes.

Hours before the event, Mr Musk acknowledged it would be “quite a challenge” to build the car during the early days of production.

“We’re going to go through at least six months of manufacturing hell,” Mr Musk told journalists.

The more than half-a-million reservations are up from about 373,000 disclosed in April 2016. Customers pay $1000 refundable deposits for the car, which is eligible for tax credits.

Any new buyers would likely not receive their car until the end of 2018, Mr Musk said.

A longer-range version of the car is priced at $44,000 and will drive 310 miles (500km) on a single charge. The cars feature a streamlined dashboard devoid of buttons or knobs, with a 15-inch touchstream display to the right of the driver.

Tesla faces major hurdles living up to the Model 3 hype. The 500,000 vehicles Tesla vows to produce next year are nearly six times its 2016 production.

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