Well, this is interesting: late last night, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced that the long-awaited Model 3 had been cleared for production, and the vehicle bearing the coveted "01" serial number will roll off the assembly line this Friday.
For those keeping track, that's a couple of weeks sooner than expected--which is highly unusual, given Tesla's history of production delays.
Musk shared the good news on Twitter, as one does these days:
Model 3 passed all regulatory requirements for production two weeks ahead of schedule. Expecting to complete SN1 on Friday— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 3, 2017
He went on to say that there would be a handover party for the first 30 vehicles on July 28 and that by December, the company would likely be producing about 20,000 of the all-electric sedans per month.
That's good news for Tesla fans and the company's investors. Though it's been months since Tesla released figures on how many Model S vehicles have been reserved, the number appears to rest somewhere between 400,000 and 500,000. Even if only half of the people who put down $1,000 to get one of the new cars follow-through with their purchases, that's huge demand for Tesla to meet--especially considering that Tesla only built around 84,000 vehicles during the entire 2016 calendar year.
How is Tesla achieving that feat?
For starters, production of the Model 3 is largely automated--certainly more automated than production of the Model S and Model X. Obviously, that allows Tesla to turn out more vehicles faster.
Also, as Musk said early last month during a conference call with investors, buyers currently have only two customization options with the Model 3: color and wheels. Over time, the range of options will broaden, no doubt, but by keeping variations to a minimum, manufacturing can be sped up. Model 3 can currently be ordered in about 100 different configurations, while the Model S has closer to 1,500.
The Model 3 is expected to be a game-changer in the electric car field. Starting at $35,000, it's Tesla's first model with a mass-market pricetag. Demand is expected to grow, and the company plans to produce 500,000 Model 3s next year.
In gearing up for the Model 3's arrival, Tesla has begun laying the groundwork to keep future owners happy. It's adding service centers, mobile repair units, and its first-ever body repair shops.
For more on this story, visit our colleagues at Green Car Reports.