Looking to buy one of Tesla’s new Model 3 battery-cars? You can look for a long wait.
Those who put in an early reservation for the carmaker’s first mainstream model might yet get a Model 3 delivered before the end of next year, Tesla now says more recent orders won’t be fulfilled until 2018. And some analysts questions whether the company will even meet that goal, considering its history of missing targets with new products.
That could be good news for Chevrolet, however. The Detroit maker expects to start delivering the first of its own affordable, long-range electric vehicles before year-end, and battery supplier LG Chem said this week that it believes there will be demand for as many as 30,000 Chevy Bolt EVs in 2017.
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Tesla introduced the long-awaited Model 3 at the end of March, opening up an order bank that almost immediately amassed about 400,000 advance, $1,000 reservations. The move was a financial windfall for a company that has been struggling – despite its high stock price – to fund the development of the new battery-car and other projects.
For his part, Tesla CEO Elon Musk was vague with details about the actual production plans for the Model 3, suggesting the new battery-car would go into production sometime during the second half of 2016. He also said that Tesla would quickly ramp up operations at its Fremont, California assembly plant, with a goal of getting production up to an annualized rate of 500,000 vehicles by the end of 2018 – or roughly ten times what Tesla built in 2015.
Not everyone buys that ambitious forecast, not when all forms of electrified vehicles – hybrids, plug-ins and pure battery-electric models combined – currently account for less than 4% of the U.S. market. The more immediate question is whether Tesla will be able to simply deliver any Model 3 sedans by next year. The maker missed its target dates with its original Roadster, as well as the big Model S sedan. And the newest product, the Model X battery-SUV, was about two years behind schedule.
Even if Tesla does deliver the first Model 3 on time, the initial order bank seems to be straining its projected manufacturing resources. A visit to the Tesla website now reveals a greeting for prospective Model 3 buyers that warns that it won’t be able to deliver a car until “mid-2018 or later.” How much later is the next question.
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A significant delay in the production launch of the Model 3 could create other headaches, analysts warning that at least some buyers might not be willing to wait much longer to get the car.
“These aren’t the same buyers” who were willing to wait for a Model S or X, noted analyst Joe Phillippi, of AutoTrends Consulting. While early Tesla customers were willing to wait, and likely had other cars they could drive in the meantime, buyers for the $35,000 Model X, he said, are more mainstream and less motivated by the unique image Tesla has developed for itself.
A flood of desertions, some observers have suggested, could be good for Chevrolet, as it will have its own, long-range, affordable electric car in showrooms months – and perhaps a year or more – ahead of Tesla.
Even without a helping hand from the California start-up, there’s a mood of optimism at Bolt’s battery supplier LG Chem. Kang Chang Beom, a vice president at the South Korean company, said it expects Chevy to sell about 30,000 Bolts in 2018. That would be a significant breakthrough considering that would make it one of the world’s best-selling plug-based models.
That would, however, be a fraction of the numbers Tesla expects to deliver, longer-term, with the Model 3. But considering the reluctance of the market so far, whether either maker can reach its ambitious goal is far from certain.
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Tags: auto news, chevrolet bolt, chevrolet news, chevy bolt sales, gm news, lg chem, paul a. eisenstein, paul eisenstein, tesla model 3, tesla model 3 debut, tesla model 3 production, tesla news, tesla production, thedetroitbureau