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Tesla Rolls Out Its First Model 3, and It’s Elon’s

It’s finally here: The Model 3, Tesla’s $35,000 electric gamechanger. A single black Model 3 rolled off the production line Friday with a serial number all its own, kicking off a company-defining six months. The car will belong to Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO and co-founder, who shared images of it

over the weekend.

Tesla has already taken in roughly half a billion dollars in Model 3 deposits, at $1,000 apiece, and its proposed ramp-up schedule would have it rivaling well-established U.S. market peers like BMW and Mercedes by year’s end. The only thing standing between Tesla and being the world’s first mass-market electric carmaker is proving it can build, deliver, and service enormous numbers of these vehicles—without sacrificing quality.

One down, millions more to go.

Serial Number: 1. This one goes to Musk.

The production acceleration will be slow at first. Tesla plans to hand over the keys to 30 cars at a launch celebration on July 28. It then envisions building 100 cars—less than three a day—for the month of August, according to a series of Twitter posts by Musk last week. September will bring another 1,500 cars, and the ramp will build to a rate of 20,000 cars a month by December, Musk said. It’s an aggressive schedule that will more than double Tesla’s total production rate in six months, and then quintuple it by the end of next year.

If Tesla achieves all of Musk’s targets, it will build more battery-powered cars next year than all of the world’s automakers combined in 2016. U.S. sales under Musk’s 2018 targets would significantly outpace the BMW 3 Series and the Mercedes C-Class, the best-selling small luxury cars in the country.

Tesla, by tradition, delivers the first new car off the line to the first customer to pay full price once the car officially goes on sale. Musk’s collection includes the first Tesla Roadster and the first Model X—but not the first Model S. That trophy belongs to Tesla board of directors member Steve Jurvetson, who told the Chicago Tribune in 2010 that he scored the first of Tesla’s flagship sedans by writing out a check just before a board meeting and tossing it across the table. The right to the first Model 3 was won by board member Ira Ehrenpreis, who then gifted it to Musk for his 46th birthday, on June 28.

Here’s what we know about what might be coming next:

The rollout begins. Key handoffs will begin in California and move east, focusing first on employees of Palo Alto, California-based Tesla and Musk’s SpaceX rocket company, based in Hawthorne...


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