Demand for Tesla Motors Inc’s new lower-priced electric car surprised even the company’s CEO on Friday, as 198,000 people plunked down US$1,000 deposits to reserve their vehicles.
“Definitely going to need to rethink production planning,” a surprised Elon Musk said on Twitter.
Musk unveiled the car on Thursday night at a design studio near Los Angeles. It starts at US$35,000 and has a range of 346km per charge, which is far more than most people drive each day.
The orders came from across the globe, even though the car is not scheduled for sale until late next year. A Tesla spokeswoman would not say how many of the 198,000 orders came from the US.
On Thursday night, Musk said Tesla had 115,000 orders since the company started taking them earlier in the day in Australia. There were long lines at Tesla stores from Hong Kong to Austin, Texas, reminiscent of crowds at Apple Inc stores for early models of the iPhone, and the number kept rising into Friday.
“Thought it would slow way down today, but Model 3 order count is now at 198k,” Musk said on Twitter in the afternoon, saying that the wait time for the car is “growing rapidly.”
The news pushed Tesla shares to a Friday closing price of US$237.59, up by 3.4 percent from Thursday.
The Model 3 is less than half the cost of Tesla’s previous models and its range is about double what drivers get from current competitors in its price range, such as the Nissan Leaf and BMW i3.
On Twitter, Musk estimated that the average selling price of a Model 3 with options would be about US$42,000. So the sales are expected to bring more than US$8.3 billion in revenue for Tesla.
Prototypes looked like a shorter version of Tesla’s Model S sedan. The Model 3 has a panoramic glass roof and an elongated hood. Inside, it seats five and has the same large touchscreen dashboard as other Tesla models. It also has Tesla’s suite of semi-autonomous driving features, including automatic lane changing and lane keeping.
Musk said it would accelerate from zero to 100kph in less than 6 seconds.
Tesla has a history of missing deadlines for its vehicles to hit the market, but Musk said that he feels “fairly confident” that the Model 3 will come out next year.
The lower-priced car is the most serious test yet of 13-year-old Tesla’s ability to go from niche player to a full-fledged automaker. It could be the car that finally makes electric vehicles mainstream — or consumers could continue to be skeptical that electrics will work for everyday use.
The orders show there is real underlying demand for reasonably priced electric cars with high range, Edmunds.com senior analyst Jessica Caldwell said.
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