Elon Musk Just Leaked a Tesla Model 3 "Secret" to Investors

When does production begin? 

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Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk let investor-call listeners in on a little secret about Model 3 production today: The company is holding suppliers’ “feet to the fire” to meet a July 1 production date.

325,000 eager people reserved the Tesla Model 3, which Musk unveiled last month and which was the biggest product launch ever. But for a company as young as Tesla to meet that insane demand, it’s going to need to rethink production planning. Musk has said as much — actually, he’s said it verbatim.

Tesla has ensured these eager people that the cars would begin shipping at the end of 2017, but skeptics have argued that Tesla’s track record can’t possibly make that true. Many of those who waited in line to reserve their Model 3 didn’t expect that the late-2017 deadline was realistic, but didn’t care.

During this afternoon’s conference call, Musk announced, for the first time, the July 1 date, saying “I’m sure this will leak — it’s hard to keep a secret,” before elaborating: “the date we are setting” internally, and externally with suppliers, for the Model 3, is “July 1 next year.”

Realistically, Musk explained, this deadline would not be met by July 1 — in fact, he said, it’s “an impossible date.” A delay of a couple to a few months is “unavoidable,” he said. There will be “some small number of items” that will lead to a production speed bump.

If he and Tesla could foresee what these issues would be, Musk said, then there would be no delay, and hindsight’s always clear — but, unfortunately, that’s impossible.

Regardless, this July 1 hard deadline is intended to account for those inevitable delays in production. It’s like telling your least-timely relative that you’ll be leaving at 4 p.m.: you just say it so you know he or she will be out the door at 4:30.

Still, Musk warned that those who want to receive a Model 3 by 2018 best get to ordering: “Now is a good time to place your reservation [for a Model 3]: if you place your order now, there is a high probability you actually receive your car in 2018.”