Tesla’s $35,000 Model 3 still isn’t here

Tesla announced on February 28th that it was finally taking orders for the long-promised $35,000 (or “Standard Range”) version of the Model 3, and at the time, the company estimated customers would need to wait about two to four weeks to take delivery. It’s now just shy of four weeks later, and it appears the company may not have shipped a single one, while customers who placed orders are being told those cars have been delayed indefinitely, according to new reports in The Drive and Tesla fan blog Electrek.

The Drive’s Ed Niedermeyer discovered multiple reports on Reddit and various Tesla forums — like the Tesla Motors Club, the Tesla Global Owners Club, even the one on Tesla’s own website — where customers have received texts from the company telling them that their deliveries are being delayed. These customers have reportedly not been given a new delivery date in those texts, and while some have seen the estimate in their online accounts change to “six to eight” weeks, Tesla reps have reportedly told them not to trust those figures. (This “six to eight” week figure also shows up for new orders on Tesla’s website.)

In the meantime, some of these customers claim Tesla employees have contacted them after the delay to get them to buy more expensive Model 3s, like the “Standard Range Plus” version that starts at $37,500, which is a hair quicker, and offers slightly better range. Electrek reports seeing some of the same claims, though with far fewer receipts than The Drive.

Tesla declined to comment in response to a number of questions from The Verge.

In some ways, this fits with the approach Tesla has taken throughout its history. The company only recently started making cars on a massive scale, and has traditionally sold more expensive versions of its cars first to collect higher margins that it uses to buoy production of cheaper models. In fact, CEO Elon Musk said last year that the company had to sell more expensive versions of the car so the company wouldn’t die. But as both The Drive and Electrek point out, it’s odd to see one of Tesla’s cars delayed so close to the end of a financial quarter, when the company is once again increasing internal pressure to deliver as many cars as possible.

Waiting a few more weeks for a premium electric car might not seem like a big deal. But there is a ticking clock here, which is that Tesla’s cars are slowly losing eligibility for the federal electric vehicle tax credit. The company passed 200,000 electric vehicles sold in North America last summer, which is a milestone the government put in place so that the credit doesn’t last forever. Starting January 1st of this year, buyers were only eligible to get a credit of $3,750. That drops again on July 1st to $1,875, and fully expires at the end of the year.

More broadly, the apparent delay shows that Tesla wasn’t quite ready to deliver on the promise of a $35,000 version of the Model 3 when it made the late February announcement. Remember, this car debuted almost three years ago to the day, and the final version was shown off two years ago. Thousands of people on the preorder list have presumably been waiting ever since to order the most affordable version of Tesla’s “mass market” car. It took all those years, production hell, delivery logistics hell, and the decision to close a bunch of retail stores to get to the point where Tesla finally felt comfortable announcing the $35,000 Model 3 last month. But this week, it appears that there’s still a little more work to be done.

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