Musk handed over the first 30 units of the Model 3 sedan outside Tesla's factory in Fremont, California on Friday. The vehicle is Tesla's first foray into affordability, with the initial price point starting at about half the cost of Tesla's previous models, or around $35,000-although with an expected $7,500 US tax credit, that price falls to $27,500. The air vents are now invisible, the lack of any instrument cluster means that the dash is clean, there is also no key to enter the vehicle. The former will have a range of 220 miles (350km) on a single charge, while it'll clock 0-100km/h in 5.6 seconds, before hitting a top-speed of 210km/h.
General Motors beat Tesla to market with its Bolt electric vehicle but recently halted production to ease inventories in view of weak sales.
Production delays and quality issues marred the launches of Tesla's Model S and Model X vehicles, and the company blamed production problems for a shortfall during the second quarter of this year. On Friday, he said customers who order cars now will likely receive them late next year.
So what does the Model 3 feel like behind the wheel?
"The major challenge we faced with the Model 3 is not really the product", Tesla CEO Elon Musk noted in a pre-event briefing to press, qualifying that they nonetheless spent a lot of time getting design right. "We wanted to make a auto everyone could buy", Tesla's CEO said.
Cars will not be available until the end of 2018, Mr Musk said.
Rather, Musk sees Tesla as a pioneer to pave the way for other carmakers, while also putting pressure on old school automakers to embrace electric cars. Since he ordered from OR, he may not receive an invitation to configure his Model 3 until early 2018, and he would receive his vehicle sometime after that.
FEATURES: The Model 3 has some surprises. Add $3k to this $5k and you get full self-driving capability, that requires "no action by the person in the driver's seat". She's borrowing a friend's Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid while she waits.
The first Model 3s for sale will be limited to those powered by a standard battery pack that can provide 354 kilometres of driving on a single charge.
"It's kind of like organic food". Helping it become a more profitable mainstream company.
"If you're trying to make a difference in the world, you also need to make cars people can afford".
It was a pivotal moment in Tesla's evolution from a manufacturer of luxury electric vehicles to a producer of mass-market cars.
Tesla hasn't released the current reservation totals for the Model 3, but it's being reported that the number could now be close to 400,000. It's made primarily of steel, not aluminum. It has no instrument panel; the speed limit and other information normally there can be found on the centre screen. To start the motor, it would also use the smartphone. "We're going to go through at least six months of manufacturing hell", Musk told journalists. That production rate will ramp up very quickly, if all goes according to plan, as Tesla wants to have produced 20,000 Model 3s by the end of the year. The company has only had two profitable quarters since it went public in 2010. "Now all of a sudden, EVs are real, practical vehicles that can be used for anything", he said.