Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said on Friday the Model 3 cars had over half a million advance reservations as he handed over the first 30 to employee buyers, aiming to disrupt a world accustomed to automobiles powered by pollution-spewing fossil fuel.
Outside Tesla’s Fremont, California factory, Musk showed off the $35,000 base vehicle, whose battery is designed to keep it going for 350 kilometers, on a charge that marks a departure from the company’s earlier luxury electric cars. A battery with a longer range is available for more money.
Musk took to the stage driving a red Model 3, and said Tesla has produced 50 of the vehicles so far, including 20 for testing purposes.
Production of the electric car will ramp up quickly, according to Musk, with 100 in August and 1,500 or more in September.
Tesla aims to produce 5,000 units of the Model 3 a week this year, and 10,000 units a week in 2018, nearly six times its 2016 production.
“We’re going to go through at least six months of manufacturing hell,” Musk told journalists.
The over half a million reservations worldwide are up from about 373,000 disclosed in April 2016.
Were Tesla to produce and sell 500,000 cars per year, the company would likely outsell the BMW, Mercedes, or
Lexus brands in the United States.
Tesla already sells “S” and “X” model electric cars, but with a starting price of $80,000 they have been seen as wheels for the wealthy.
The Model 3 silhouette resembles that of the Model S, but the new electric ride is smaller with a simpler design.
Some analysts say that with the launch, Tesla may be reshaping the future of the auto industry.
Gene Munster, analyst with the research firm Loup Ventures, argues that Tesla may do for the auto sector what Apple did for smartphones and electronics.
“We believe we will eventually look back at the launch of the Model 3 and compare it to the iPhone, which proved to be the catalyst for the shift to mobile computing,” Munster said in a recent research note.
Munster says Tesla will play a central role in “paradigm shifts” to electric and autonomous vehicles that could transform the sector.