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2017-07-03 10:25:02
Tesla’s First Mass-Market Car, the Model 3, Hits Production This Week

Tesla Motors’ first mass-market car, the Model 3, will begin rolling off the line on Friday, two weeks earlier than planned, Elon Musk, the company’s chief executive, said late Sunday.

Mr. Musk said on Twitter that production would increase quickly, with 100 Model 3s produced in August and 1,500 or more in September. He said that he expected the company to be able to produce 20,000 per month beginning in December.

The Model 3 is a critical test for Mr. Musk and his ambitious plan to turn Tesla into a producer of mass-market electric cars.

Until now, the company has produced luxury cars in relatively small numbers, typically selling them for $90,000 or more. In 2016, it made about 85,000 vehicles. General Motors, by contrast, produced more than nine million cars and light trucks.

But the Model 3 will be priced around $35,000. Mr. Musk envisions the new car reaching a much wider range of customers and has said he expects it to push Tesla’s output to 500,000 cars a year in 2018.

In June, Mr. Musk told shareholders that Model 3 production was set to begin in July at the company’s assembly plant in Fremont, Calif., although he stopped short of saying when the car would be available in volume.

Mr. Musk has said Tesla is working to automate its assembly plant further in an effort to increase output for the Model 3. He said at the shareholder meeting that the company was beginning to think about additional assembly plants.

“There is no room at Fremont,” he said. “We are bursting at the seams.”

Tesla has had discussions with Chinese officials about opening a plant near Shanghai. China accounted for about 15 percent of Tesla’s revenue in 2016.

To prepare for the addition of the Model 3 to its lineup, Tesla built a gigantic $5 billion factory in Nevada to produce batteries for the company’s electric cars. Tesla has also bolstered its coffers. Earlier this year, it raised $1 billion through offerings of stock and debt. A Chinese internet giant, Tencent Holdings, acquired a 5 percent stake in the company.

The company needs the extra capital because it continues to post losses in most quarters. In the first quarter this year, Tesla lost $397 million, compared with a loss of $282 million in the same period a year earlier. The company’s revenue more than doubled, however, to $2.7 billion.

Investor optimism about the Model 3 has pushed Tesla shares up about 67 percent this year. On Friday, shares closed at $361.61. The company has a market value of $59 billion, about $7 billion more than General Motors and $15 billion more than Ford Motor.