This is the first production Tesla Model 3… guess who owns it

Chris Davies - Jul 8, 2017, 11:28 pm CDT
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This is the first production Tesla Model 3… guess who owns it

The Tesla Model 3 has not only started production, but the first example of the California automaker’s newest all-electric car has rolled off the line. Tesla CEO Elon Musk shared a photo of the first production Model 3 on Twitter on Saturday evening. Roughly four hours earlier, the billionaire inventor had confirmed that the car, “production unit 1”, was off the assembly line and going through its final checkout.

It’s been quite a journey to this point. Musk & Co. unveiled the Model 3 back at the end of March in 2016, billing the electric car as the most affordable model in the automaker’s line-up. Smaller than the Model S, the EV would come in at around $35,000 Musk promised, with more than 200 miles of zero-emissions range and a 0-60 mph time of under six seconds.

The promise proved enough to wake a huge demand among drivers. In the region of 400,000 put down refundable deposits to stake their place in line, despite not having final specifications for the car, any final pricing, or any solid idea of when, exactly, they’d take delivery. Since then Musk has stoked the enthusiasm regularly with updates.

Last week, the CEO confirmed that the first production example of the car would be rolling off the line by the end of the week. Tesla has aggressive production goals before the end of the year – aiming to have 20,000 of the cars rolling off the line by December – though the first thirty Model 3 owners will be getting their car in a special handover ceremony at the Fremont, CA, factory later this month.

As for who gets this particular car, it turns out that Musk himself will hold the keys. It wasn’t always the case, however. On Twitter, Musk insisted that the “hard rule” was that the first person to pay the full price was the person who would own it.

Musk, though, didn’t have the first spot in the reservations line. “Ira Ehrenpreis had rights to 1st car as he was 1st to place a full deposit,” the CEO tweeted, “but gave those rights to me as my 46th bday present. Tks Ira!”

MORE: I tried the Model 3 prototype: What you should know

While today is certainly a milestone, there’s plenty more work ahead for Tesla. The company needs to demonstrate it can not only build an affordable car at scale, but do so with the sort of quality and reliability that is now expected from mass-market vehicles. It’s unintuitive, but the research suggests that well-heeled owners are actually less inclined to complain publicly when their luxury vehicle goes wrong. In contrast, those who own a more mainstream car are more likely to be vocal with their dissatisfaction should something displease them.

Part of Tesla’s strategy to deal with that is keeping things simple in the beginning. Unlike with the Model X SUV, the early months of availability of which were punctuated with quality problems and electrical glitches, Tesla plans to prioritize the simplest versions of the Model 3 initially. Most frustrating to would-be owners is the fact that the all-wheel drive Model 3 won’t be available until Summer 2018. There also won’t be a Model 3 100kWh, though that’s because the battery pack simply won’t fit into the car’s architecture.


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