Tesla has hundreds of thousands of preorders for its more affordable, but when it comes to actually building the things, it's going to take time. So long, in fact, that Tesla is silently revising delivery estimates on its website.
Now, instead of the Model 3 website saying "Deliveries begin mid-2017," the site says, "Production begins late 2017. Delivery estimate for new reservations is mid 2018 or later."
Using a bit of napkin math, based on 400,000 reservations, Tesla estimates that it should produce the first batch of 400,000 reservations within a year, give or take whatever Tesla defines "later" as. 400,000 cars in a year, or even 18 months, is massively optimistic, given it built about 25,000 cars in the third quarter of 2016 and expects about the same in the fourth quarter.
If you ask me (which nobody did), it's a sensible change. It's a good CYA maneuver to prevent a bunch of dimwitted and overexpecting reservation holders from screaming about how reservation No. 450823 isn't going to turn into a car six weeks after the assembly line starts up.
Tesla seems to agree with me. "Today's website update does not reflect any change in our plans," a Tesla spokesperson said in a statement. "We still plan to begin Model 3 deliveries in 2017, and we adjusted the delivery date on our marketing page to reflect more accurate timing for new/future reservation holders."
It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that the early bird gets the worm. If you waited this long to place a reservation, which is relatively affordable and also refundable, don't act all gobsmacked about having to wait until 2018 or maybe even 2019.
Update, 2:43 p.m. ET: It appears Tesla revised its website text once again. Jeez. I can't keep up.