(Yicai Global) July 31 -- Tesla Inc. [NASDAQ:TSLA] delivered the first 30 units of the long-awaited Tesla Model 3 last Friday evening. The release of the model, priced at USD35,000 (CNY 235,000), is part of Tesla's plans to transition from a niche high-end brand to a mass market electric car maker, market insiders told Yicai Global.
"The Model 3 will be offered in two versions -- a standard model with 220 miles of battery range and a long-range USD44,000 model with 310 miles of range," CEO Elon Musk said.
"Tesla will focus on the research, development and production of next-generation SUVs or pick-up trucks after unveiling the Model 3."
Supply of the new model remains limited by the company's production capacity. The company will produce 100 Model 3 cars by August and 1,500 in September, a Tesla spokesperson said.
Tesla plans to produce about 20,000 Model 3s by the end of this year, almost 50 percent down on its previously pledged goal. Tesla's output will increase to eight times its current level by the end of next year, Musk said.
Tesla began taking pre-orders for the Model 3 in March 2016 and received more than 373,000 reservations, which require a USD1,000 cash deposit, in the first month. Tesla has not provided updated reservation figures since.
All the models produced initially are standard versions in order to boost output as quickly as possible, a spokesperson told Yicai Global. Tesla will invite users to select their cars based on their reservation time, and will arrange production and delivery as soon as possible.
Delivery time for Chinese customers has not yet been determined, the spokesperson said.
There are many Tesla fans in China. Mr. Wang, 35, is a Tesla owner who works in investment. He paid a CNY8,000 deposit for a Model 3 on March 31, 2016 and has been waiting since. Tesla does not communicate with its clients during this initial period.
"I found out on the Internet that the Model 3 will be delivered in North America first, starting from Tesla's employee buyers," Wang told Yicai Global.
Wang already owns a Model S and a Model X. "What makes Model 3 most attractive to me is that it is capable of upgrading to automated driving in the future through software updates, and offers a good specification for just CNY450,000 to CNY500,000," he told Yicai Global.
The Model S and Model X cost him as much as CNY1.2 million each.
"I will not hesitate in buying the long-range version", Mr. Wang told Yicai Global. "It would be really hard to switch back to using a petrol vehicle after trying Tesla. Electric cars are quiet and non-polluting. The Model 3 has good potential and the upgrade to automated driving is something that petrol vehicles can't offer."
Tariffs on Tesla cars are much lower than those on other imported premium vehicles, he added. Tesla cars are nearly 50 percent cheaper than other similarly priced cars for sale in overseas markets after they are exported to China. This is also a reason why he became a fan of Tesla.