The cheapest version of the Tesla Model 3 is on the way, CEO Elon Musk reassured viewers during an interview that aired Sunday. The company promised to introduce a $35,000 version of the electric vehicle some point after the initial production push, but nearly 18 months after the Model 3 first started deliveries, that price tag is still nowhere to be found. Musk claims there’s a reason why he hasn’t been able to specify a firm date.
“It’s getting there,” Musk told Lesley Stahl in a chat on the show 60 Minutes hosted by CBS. “We’re not that far from being able to produce the $35,000 car, and that will probably be ready in about five or six months.”
That’s a slight pushback from previous estimates. The car initially started shipping with a starting price of $49,000, with a $46,000 model launching in October. Musk said in May that the $35,000 car would enter production six months after the company reached a rate of 5,000 Model 3s per week, a figure Tesla hit in June. Delivery estimates in October placed the car with an estimated delivery date of three to six months.
“That’s just my guess,” Musk said on Sunday. “It’s not like some promise or so help me God and strike me dead.”
When Stahl suggested to Musk that critics would describe this as lying, Musk responded by quoting Hanlon’s Razor.
“People should not ascribe to malice that which can easily be explained by stupidity,” Musk said. “Just because I’m dumb at predicting dates, does not mean I am untruthful. I don’t know…we’ve never made a mass-produced car. How am I supposed to know with precision when it’s going to get done?”
The Model 3 is uncharted territory for Tesla. The company faced a backlog of nearly half a million $1,000 reservations at the start of production, necessitating a much higher production rate than the combined 2,000 per week for the Model S and Model X sedan. Musk referred to this initial ramp up period as “production hell,” and he’s since spoken about how the company faced extinction as it worked to ramp up deliveries. Tesla took big steps like building a tent-based production line and buying up car carriers in a bid to get ahead.
These steps helped propel the company to its new-found mass market position, with the Model 3 claiming the number one spot for American car sales for the month of September.
However, Musk did acknowledge that it’s not the first time he’s missed a deadline. The Model X was expected to enter volume production in 2014, but eventually reached that stage in September 2015. Similarly, the company has yet to complete a coast-to-coast autonomous drive, originally promised for the end of 2017.
“Punctuality is not my strong suit,” Musk said. “Why would people think that if I’m late on all the other models that I’d be suddenly on time with this one?”
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