An Update on the Everyman’s Car

0
103

You know what we’re talking about, right? The Tesla with the affordable price that everyone couldn’t stop talking about during the 2016 unveiling? That one. Not the Model 3 Long Range model, currently the only version in production ($44,000 to start), and not the $78,000 dual-motor performance model announced this past weekend.

We’re talking about the $35,000, 220-mile entry level Model 3. Lost in the hubbub over the performance variant and the apparently controversial Consumer Reports review is the latest approximation of when reservation holders stand to see a stripped-down version of the slow-to-ramp electric sedan.

Responding to a query on Twitter, CEO Elon Musk characterized the long wait for the base Model 3 as being essential for his company’s health. There’ll be no shorter-range variants added to the mix until the automaker achieves a steady rate of at least 5,000 (costlier) Model 3s per week, he said.

“Shipping min cost Model 3 right away wd cause Tesla to lose money & die,” Musk tweeted. “Need 3 to 6 months after 5k/wk to ship $35k Tesla & live.”

There’s no mention of June in his tweet, but the end of the second quarter is when Tesla hopes to achieve that rate. Previous production targets have come and gone without being met, so it’s no wonder Musk isn’t listing a specific date. If it comes to pass, July will see production begin on dual-motor models. (Those carry a price of $54,000, though reservation holders can spring for the AWD setup for an extra $5k.)

The earliest possible delivery of a $35,000 base model under this scenario is September, though Musk has, in the past, said deliveries will start by the end of 2018. A late four-quarter delivery date for the first base cars seems likely.

Problems and delays in getting the Model 3’s production up to speed, endlessly detailed on these pages, mean other automakers are getting a headstart. In 2017, Chevrolet sold 23,297 similarly priced, 248-mile Bolt EVs in the United States. Another 4,375 were sold in the first quarter of 2018. A longer-ranged (225-plus mile) version of the recently revamped Nissan Leaf arrives for the 2019 model year, and the Hyundai Kona Electric will offer up to 250 miles of range.

Because of the wait, it’s likely that base Model 3 buyers won’t be able to benefit from the full federal tax credit. Tesla admitted in an SEC filing that it expects to sell its 200,000th electric vehicle this year, meaning the $7,500 credit gets cut in half for the following six-month period, then halved again.

While GM and Nissan aren’t expected to last all that much longer before hitting the 200k mark, there will be a period where Bolt and Leaf buyers get an added perk from Uncle Sam. Hyundai won’t have to worry about that for a while.

[Image: Maurizio Pesce/Flickr]