Tesla Model 3 is the highest-selling electric car in the United States, and the company’s not stopping here. A production report released on Wednesday showed CEO Elon Musk’s $35,000 vehicle launched in July 2017 is a smash hit, beating out the Chevrolet Bolt and Nissan Leaf to claim the top prize. The news comes ahead of planned upgrades and a boost to production.
Tesla had an impressive first quarter of sales in the year. Bloomberg notes that the Model 3 sold 8,180 vehicles in the quarter, compared to just 6,468 Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrids, 4,375 Chevrolet Bolts, and around 2,500 Nissan Leafs. Tesla does not provide geographic breakdowns of sales figures, so this record is inferred by the fact that the Model 3 is only sold in the United States right now. The figures come ahead of planned upgrades to the company’s cheapest car, which could make it a more attractive prospect to buyers, including a new autonomous driving system.
The Model 3 looks set to improve further from here. Musk told his Twitter followers in July 2017 that a performance model of the Model 3, in a similar vein to the Model S P100D, will “probably” launch the following year. This could offer a boost to the currently-advertised acceleration rate of 0-60mph in 5.1 seconds found on the 310-mile version of the car.
Tesla is also developing a fully-autonomous driving system, slated for release this year as an upgrade costing $3,000 for pre-order customers and $5,000 for purchase after release. Musk told investors in the fourth quarter earnings call in February that, while Tesla missed the deadline for coast-to-coast autonomy in 2017, he was “pretty excited” about internal progress on the neural net. While existing Model 3s contain the necessary cameras and sensors to support the feature, and the dashboard was built with autonomy in mind, it’s unclear whether the feature will ship as a software update or bundled with an internal computer upgrade.
It’s not just the Model 3 pushing Tesla forward. The company also plans to launch a Semi electric truck, second-generation Roadster, entry-level Model Y sports utility vehicle and more in the coming years. This will be enabled by the ongoing construction of the Gigafactory in the Nevada desert, which is also set to power production of 500,000 Model 3s per year by the end of 2018.
Musk has previously referred to this period of production as “hell,” but it seems the company is pulling through and looks set to expand on its winning car.