Tesla's fabled $35,000 Model 3 on target for first half of 2019

Tesla estimates it'll be ready in four to six months.

Andrew Krok Reviews Editor / Cars
Cars are Andrew's jam, as is strawberry. After spending years as a regular ol' car fanatic, he started working his way through the echelons of the automotive industry, starting out as social-media director of a small European-focused garage outside of Chicago. From there, he moved to the editorial side, penning several written features in Total 911 Magazine before becoming a full-time auto writer, first for a local Chicago outlet and then for CNET Cars.
Andrew Krok
3 min read
2018 Tesla Model 3 Performance
Nick Miotke/Roadshow

Back in May, Elon Musk estimated that it would take between three and six months after Tesla found its production groove for the mythical $35,000 Model 3 to make its way to production. By the looks of it, that's still the plan, and it's on target to happen in 2019.

Even though some people were concerned that Tesla's new midrange Model 3 would push back the base model further than expected, the automaker says that's not the case.

"As Model 3 production and sales continue to grow rapidly, we've achieved a steady volume in manufacturing capacity, allowing us to diversify our product offering to even more customers," Tesla said in an emailed statement. "Our delivery estimate for customers who have ordered the Standard Battery is 4-6 months."

According to Bloomberg's homemade tracker of Tesla's production rates, the automaker is averaging 4,408 Model 3s per week, with brief production bursts eliciting higher figures. According to Musk's tweet from May, Tesla needs steady production figures above 5,000 Model 3s per week for three to six months in order for Tesla to ship a $35,000 Model 3 and, as Musk puts it, "live."

2018 Tesla Model 3 Performance
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2018 Tesla Model 3 Performance

The wait is almost over. Almost. Hopefully.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

Thus far, Tesla has thrived on significantly more expensive Model 3s, but it recently threw frugally minded buyers a small bone. Last week, Tesla unveiled a mid-range Model 3. Using the same battery as the long-range model, but with fewer cells inside, Tesla was able to offer a Model 3 for a base price of $45,000 with a range of 260 miles. It's believed that the battery in the $35,000 Model 3 will have a unique architecture when it comes to market.

While we know that Tesla has targeted a price for the short-range Model 3, that's about all we know. Range should be somewhere south of 260 miles, obviously, but likely north of 200 miles. It will likely also be rear-wheel drive, given that the mid-range Model 3 is only available with RWD -- two-motor AWD is currently relegated to the $54,000 long-range Model 3 and the $64,000 Model 3 Performance. Tesla will likely let more details slip as we get closer to the target date in 2019.

Perhaps the biggest bummer is that folks waiting for the $35,000 Model 3 will not be able to claim the full $7,500 federal tax incentive for electric vehicles. Tesla hit 200,000 sales this year, and only those who receive their order on or before Dec. 31, 2018 will be able to claim the full amount. That's probably fine, though, because it's a dollar-for-dollar reduction on one's tax liability, and many waiting for the cheapest Model 3 probably didn't pay that much in federal tax in 2018 anyhow.

Furthermore, one Senator has proposed a bill that replaces the current phase-out strategy in favor of unlimited $7,500 incentives through 2022, so it could very well come back if the bill passes. Then again, a different Senator proposed a bill that would kill the EV credit entirely and replace it with an additional tax, so anything's possible.

Tesla's Model 3 Performance subtly adds the power

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Tesla Model 3 Long-Range: If you can shell out the dough, we think it's worth it.

Tesla Model 3 Performance: Holy hell, this thing is quick.