By Diane Cooke
No-one would argue that Tesla is at the forefront of the electric car market. But one offputting feature is the price.
This issue has been somewhat addressed by the more affordable Tesla Model 3 - the vehicle that's supposed to bring Tesla to the masses and spell the beginning of the end for fuel-powered cars.
Over half a million Tesla enthusiasts put down a £1,000/$1,000 deposit to reserve a Model 3 in the first week since pre-orders began in 2016.
Due to this huge demand and backlog of orders, drivers have been warned that they may have to wait before they receive their new car.
The long range Model 3 with autonomous technologies has a starting price of $49,000.
From December 2017-Feb 2018 the cheaper, standard $35,000 Model 3 will begin to ship.
Later this year the Dual-Motor All Wheel Drive Model 3 will begin to be shipped.
"This is a seminal moment for EVs," said Jeremy Acevedo, an analyst with the automotive Web site Edmunds.com.
If even half of the people who put down a deposit on the Model 3 actually buy one, then this car alone will give a huge boost to EV sales, he pointed out.
There were 78,000 electric cars sold in the U.S. last year, over half of which were Tesla Model S sedans and Model X SUVs. The Model 3, just by itself, could double or even triple electric vehicle sales in the U.S. if Tesla can ramp up production.
Getting more electric cars on the road should help with the broader acceptance of the technology, he said. That should be good, not just for Tesla, but General Motors, Nissan and other automakers who sell electric cars, reports CNN.
However, Business Insider reports that Tesla is behind on production. The company said it would produce 1,500 Model 3s in September, but has produced fewer than 300 since launching the car in July.
This means the half-million preorders for the Model 3 could go unfulfilled for several years, putting many $1,000 refundable deposits for each new car in doubt. That threat is real, but the markets are unconcerned. Tesla stock was still up 65% in 2017, and the brand has lost none of its captivating aura.
However, Tesla did produce 800 Model 3s in the last seven working days of 2017. That was a 36x increase from the average weekly production rate of 22 cars.