Production for Tesla’s highly-anticipated Model 3 could begin as early as July in a limited capacity, before the electric carmaker ramps up to full-scale production later this year.
In a letter this week to shareholders, Tesla CEO Elon Musk and chief financial officer Jason Wheeler reportedly said that the commencement of production was on schedule.
Both vehicles were significantly delayed, as was Tesla’s expansion into markets outside the US, as the carmaker did not hesitate to hit the ‘stop’ button on the production line to ensure vehicles were free from foreseeable problems from the very beginning.
But it appears the Model 3 will proceed as planned, which will no doubt be music to the ears of the hundreds of thousands of customers who have placed deposits for the ‘people’s EV’ despite knowing half a decade could pass before they take delivery.
“Our Model 3 program is on track to start limited vehicle production in July and to steadily ramp production to exceed 5000 vehicles per week at some point in the fourth quarter and 10,000 vehicles per week at some point in 2018,” Musk and Wheeler said.
But Musk stopped short of placing a delivery timeline on the Model 3, saying “people read too much into it”, while adding that initial crash testing using Model 3 prototypes has produced positive results.
To further facilitate Model 3 and other Tesla production programs, the company is also looking to build more ‘Gigafactories’ to ramp up battery production while driving costs down.
Currently, a single Gigafactory is in operation in Nevada, although the facility is still under construction. The second Gigafactory is destined for New York State, and Musk said sites are under consideration for Gigafactories “three, four and five”.
As Tesla expands, America’s United Auto Workers union has set its sights on the carmaker’s growing workforce. Musk warned against unionisation however, saying that he thought his workers were unlikely to do so and that “there are only disadvantages”.
Forbes reports Musk said injury rates at his plants were “less than half” the industry average, and that wages growth over the last four years has outpaced any other carmaking plant in the US.
TESLA ARRIVES IN NEW ZEALAND
Tesla celebrated its arrival in New Zealand this week, with the first official deliveries of its Model S sedan to NZ customers.
In truth, at least a handful of customers have already been buying Teslas and importing them into NZ, but now the carmaker arrives with plans for a NZ Supercharging network and the company’s first ‘store’ in Auckland.
Would-be customers were able to register for a test drive on the night, and launch party attendees sampled the Model S through the Port of Auckland.
To keep their Teslas juiced-up, owners will soon be able to use a Supercharger at Hamilton with further facilities planned at Turangi and Sanson before 2018.
Superchargers for Auckland and the South Island are also on the cards, along with 100 or more ‘Destination Chargers’ (more on those in a moment).
Customers in NZ will also be able to complement their Model S purchase with a Tesla Powerwall or Powerpack, as the company has opened the order book on both products.
DRIVE-AWAY, NO MORE TO PAY
As Tesla continues to change the motoring paradigm, the carmaker has faced more than a few hurdles.
Depending on one’s position on the matter, and the numerous legal disclaimers, Tesla is arguably the first carmaker in history to offer a fully-autonomous car for sale to the general public.
But Tesla is concerned that the insurance companies won’t play ball, maintaining or increasing premiums and ignoring the increased safety features in new models.
Without clumsy human drivers crashing into each other all of the time, insurance premiums should plummet, right..?
America’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said collisions involving Teslas have fallen 40 percent since Tesla’s Autopilot was introduced.
Business Insider reports that some insurers in the US have even admitted that autonomous cars could threaten current business models.
In order to overcome this problem, Tesla has already begun to bundle insurance with its purchase prices in something of a ‘trial’ in some Asian markets along with a maintenance schedule.
“It takes into account not only the Autopilot safety features but also the maintenance cost of the car,” Tesla’s Jon McNeill said.
“It’s our vision in the future we could offer a single price for the car, maintenance, and insurance.”
Elon Musk added “If we find that the insurance providers are not matching the insurance proportionate to the risk of the car, then if we need to, we will in-source it”.
Musk said that he felt insurers would behave responsibly, passing savings on to customers as the risk of collisions falls with an increasing population of full and semi-autonomous cars.
For customers in Australia, Tesla has partnered with QBE Insurance.
HITTING THE ELECTRIC HIGHWAY
Tesla’s Sydney-to-Melbourne link of Superchargers in Australia was completed at the end of 2015, and facilities in Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour, Heatherbrae (Newcastle) and Knockrow (the Macadamia Castle, to be precise) mean the Sydney to Brisbane route is also nearing completion.
Brisbane itself does not currently have any Supercharging facilities, and one more site is planned along the Sydney-to-Brisbane route to ensure those with the lesser-powered battery packs in their Model S or Model X can conveniently travel extended distances using the fast-charging devices.
But Tesla has also turned its attention to the west, with the first Supercharging site selected in Wendouree (near Ballarat), Victoria, to begin the Melbourne-to Adelaide route.
Once complete, the Wendouree sight will offer six Superchargers at a local shopping centre.
Tesla’s Superchargers are designed for use on long distance routes, able to provide a half charge of around 270km range in 30 minutes.
Owners can opt for the full charge if they are prepared to wait around an hour or slightly longer, but a 30 minute charge should usually be sufficient to reach the next Supercharger.
While Supercharger infrastructure requires cooperation with local councils and the like, Tesla’s Destination Chargers can be installed almost anywhere.
Recently, Tesla celebrated its 200th Destination Charger in Australia, located in South Australia’s McLaren Vale on what was roughly the two-year anniversary of the first Model S delivery in Australia.
Identical to the at-home (or work) wall-mounted chargers, a Destination Charger can also provide a full charge for Tesla owners, using three-phase power, but the layover is usually three or more hours with numerous factors altering this time.
A Destination Charger is perfect, therefore, for shopping centres, restaurants, car parks and overnight accommodation facilities, and plenty have seized the opportunity to offer the unique service to customers with Teslas.
Destination Chargers can be found as far afield as Darwin, Port Douglas, Broome, Bourke and Broken Hill in NSW, Ceduna on the eastern fringe of the Nullarbor and all over Tasmania.
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