Tesla not afraid of Chevy Bolt, opens Model 3 orders in March

There will be no Signature Series for the Model 3.

At long last, the headlights of the Tesla Model 3 can be seen at the end of the tunnel. The California automaker's shareholder letter reiterated a point CEO Elon Musk made a couple weeks ago in Paris, when he said that the $35,000 electric sedan would begin to ship in late 2017. That's great, of course, but is it too late?

After all that it has done to further its ultimate mission – to accelerate the advent of electric transport – the $37,500 (before incentives) Chevy Bolt is likely to arrive in driveways a solid year ahead of Tesla's high-volume effort. Possibly more, if Tesla lives up to its well-deserved reputation of being unfashionably late with its product releases. So, is Musk worried about the bold move of its Detroit-based competitor? Evidently not.

"It doesn't seem like we're going to be demand constrained." - Elon Musk

Asked straight out by Dee-Ann Durbin from the Associated Press if the huge head start of the 200-mile hatchback from GM had taken any of the winds out of their sails, Musk countered by bringing up the success of the Model S against its established upmarket competitors, where it outsold them all in the US and, he added, grew its sales by 51 percent while other luxury models saw declines. "If Model 3 is similar at all in its market segment, it doesn't seem like we're going to be demand constrained," he finished.

The session apparently didn't give the entrepreneur the chance to say everything he wanted to about Model 3. Early this morning, Musk took to Twitter to let it be known that $1,000-reservations for its "affordable" vehicle would begin in Tesla Stores on the 31st of March, with internet orders commencing the following day. Perhaps to underline the egalitarian intent of the car, he also mentioned that there is "No signature series for Model 3. Same reservation amount for all."

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Of course, if you want to be among the first deliveries, be prepared to pay significantly more than the base price. As with the Models S and X, the company will build highly-optioned vehicles first, as that will give them more of a cash cushion and help gross margins. For your less-than-modest outlay, we expect you'll get a car with a larger battery pack, a more autonomous Autopilot than what is available now, and probably dual motors. Heck, who knows, maybe by then the performance version with offer the ability to go plaid.

Still unanswered, though, is the question of exactly how much of this new vehicle we are going to see. As we recently noted, Musk has been a bit coy about what he's is willing to reveal, though during the call, it did seem as though he had been reconsidering that stance, so there's a chance we might actually get the full monty in March.

Unlike calls from previous quarters, this latest lacked the number of hidden gems we usually get. Musk seemed determined not to get too deep into the weeds regarding the current run rate of the Model X or other internal technical points. Besides the Model 3 mentions, perhaps the most interesting bits of new information concerned the outfits planned entrance into Mexico later this year and the probability that Tesla will eventually do more marketing. Said Mr. Musk, "In the long term, I think I could see us doing advertising where that advertising is interesting, entertaining, and people don't regret seeing it."

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