But before Thursday's announcements that Tesla Inc. was finally prepared to deliver a Model 3 priced for the mass market, that ordering was moving to online only, and that the company probably won't be profitable in the first quarter, online sleuths were taking their best guesses as to what exactly the unpredictable billionaire had in store.
To help lower the price the firm plans to close showrooms and is switching to an online-only sales model.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said that he expects Tesla vehicles to have "Full Self-Driving" capability by the end of 2019.
Shares in the company were down 8.4% to $292.97 on Friday, the day after the announcement.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that anyone in the U.S. who orders one of the new Model 3s should take delivery before June (when the IRS tax credit halves again), but priority will go to reservation holders. However, the most eye-catching part of the announcement wasn't about the vehicle, but about the company's decision to move its sales exclusively online. The Model 3 is expected to be available in Australia as of mid-2019. Tesla said Thursday that Model 3s at that price point would have a top speed of 130 miles an hour and accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds.
More than 400,000 customers signed up for the vehicle when it was first announced, but production issues, higher prices and other delays caused troubles following its launch.
It will also include 'most premium features, ' starting at $37,000 before incentives. Tesla said it will shift all of its sales online, with Musk noting during the call that "some stores" will be shuttered, while existing stores would be "converted to galleries and information centers". A steep price cut will undoubtedly hurt margins and Elon touched on this during the media call saying, "It is excruciatingly hard to make this auto for $35,000 and still be financially sustainable".
In order to remove the need for a test-drive, customers will be able to return a vehicle within seven days, or before they have driven 1,000 miles, whichever comes first. "Quite literally, you could buy a Tesla, drive several hundred miles for a weekend road trip with friends and then return it for free".
The company is confident that will not happen often. The sedan has been catalyst for Tesla's surge in deliveries and two quarters of profit.
Musk said in a press call that long-time reservation holders will have priority for deliveries of the new version.
The Dual Motor Performance model ($58,000) has the same range, but the 0-60 plummets to a nuts 3.2 seconds.
Wall Street never wants to hear that kind of news and Tesla stock immediately sank over 3 percent in after-hours trading after the news broke.
Strong sales of the Model 3 are critical to that effort.
In a series of tweets to his 25 million followers following charges from the US Securities and Exchange Commission earlier this week, Musk accused the regulator of failing to read Tesla's annual reports and said its oversight was "broken".