tesla model 3

Tesla’s Model 3 finally goes on sale, but new customers face a long wait

Tesla’s keenly awaited Model 3 electric car is set to go on sale to the masses this Friday, although those who are only just putting a deposit down now will have to wait until 2018 before they receive their vehicle.

The five-seat electric car will be able to travel up to 215 kilometres on a single charge and will be sporty, accelerating from zero to 60mph in under six seconds.

Customers have been feverishly awaiting the car due to its relatively low price compared to other Tesla models, costing as it will around $35,000 (£26,000).

Company CEO Elon Musk had said production was on track to start in July, but Tesla often faces delays in getting vehicles to market.

The California-based company aims to make 5,000 Model 3 sedans per week by the end of this year and 10,000 per week in 2018.

Tesla has not said how many people have put down a $1,000 (£767) refundable deposit for the Model 3, but Musk said people who put down a deposit now will not get a car until the end of 2018, suggesting the pre-order number could be close to 500,000.

The firm’s last new vehicle, the Model X SUV which features DeLorean-style gullwing doors and costs £130,000, was delayed by nearly 18 months. 

Musk said the Model 3 is much simpler to make, but the 14-year-old Tesla has no experience in producing and selling vehicles in high volumes.

Tesla made just 84,000 cars last year. Bigger rivals like General Motors, Volkswagen and Toyota routinely sell around 10 million vehicles per year. Even if the Model 3 is delivered on time, servicing all those vehicles will still provide a challenge.

Model S and Model X owners are already worried about having to share Tesla’s company-owned charging stations with an influx of new cars and while Tesla is promising to increase its network of stores and service centres by 30 per cent this year, it began 2017 with just 250 service centres worldwide. That leaves many potential owners miles from a service centre.

Musk has said a new fleet of mobile service trucks will be deployed to help customers who are far from service centres.

Tesla also plans to double its global high-speed charging points to 10,000 by the end of this year and increase them by another 50-100 per cent in 2018.

Until recently, Tesla owned the market for fully-electric vehicles that can go 200 miles (324 kilometres) or more on a charge.

However, this is changing. GM beat Tesla to the mass market with the Chevrolet Bolt, a 36,000 dollar (£27,000) car that goes 383 kilometres per charge. 

Audi plans to introduce an electric SUV with 486 kilometres of range next year and Ford aims to have one available by 2020. Volkswagen is already planning to have more than 30 electric vehicle models by 2025.

Competitors like Mercedes and Volvo - not to mention tech companies like Google and Uber - can match Tesla’s efforts to develop self-driving vehicles. They also have deeper pockets. Thus far, Tesla has had only two profitable quarters in its seven years as a public company.

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