The Tesla Model 3 is going international. The company’s cheapest-ever electric car, which entered production in July 2017 with a focus on North American consumers, will become available in the United Kingdom and Australia in the middle of 2019. CEO Elon Musk confirmed the move on Thursday in a response to Inverse via Twitter.
The news follows confirmation in Tesla’s third-quarter earnings letter the day before that “we expect to start taking orders in Europe and China for Model 3 before the end of this year.” The letter notes that it could represent a big moment for Tesla, as the mid-size premium sedan market for Europe alone is more than double the size of the American market. Musk said during Wednesday’s third-quarter earnings call that he expects global Model 3 demand to reach “probably in the order of anywhere from 500,000 to one million cars a year.”
Tesla handed over the first Model 3 vehicles at a handover event at the Tesla Design Studio in July 2017, with initial production focused on $49,000 editions with long-range battery and premium extras and plans to start producing $35,000 models once production reached a satisfactory level. The company had a backlog of around 455,000 reservations in August 2017. As production expanded to deliver over 50,000 Model 3s in the third quarter of 2018, Tesla switched in July to a direct order system in North America.
The company designed the Model 3 to support this rapid production rate, with a minimalist interior that simplifies switching between left and right-hand drive production. Musk confirmed that the United Kingdom and Australia, which both use right-hand drive, will receive the Model 3 in the middle of next year:
Musk noted during Wednesday’s third-quarter earnings call that he expects the company to start producing the Model 3 in significant volumes for Europe in January. This would mean shipping the cars out from California to arrive at consumers’ doors in the continent between late February and March. From there, Musk said that he expects deliveries to reach the Asia Pacific region possibly in the first quarter of 2019, but definitely by the second quarter.
Tesla has been seeking to expand production with plans to build a third, fourth and fifth Gigafactory, one of which will be based in Europe and another based in China. The company has secured a 210-acre site in Shanghai for Gigafactory 3, which will reportedly produce around 250,000 cars per year. Tesla’s earnings letter states that it “decided to accelerate our manufacturing timeline in China. We are aiming to bring portions of Model 3 production to China during 2019 and to progressively increase the level of localization through local sourcing and manufacturing. Production in China will be designated only for local customers.”
Beyond bringing the Model 3 to more consumers, Tesla has taken a number of other big steps to reach a wider audience. It’s introduced a new $46,000 mid-range Model 3 with premium interior, while Shanghai Gigafactory documents reveal the company plans to also use the premises to produce the Model Y. Tesla has yet to take the wraps off its mass market sports utility vehicle, but Musk has previously teased a reveal date of March next year.