Tesla is about to bring its cheapest-ever electric car to more markets than ever. The company has issued vehicle identification numbers for its first big batch of Tesla Model 3s destined for Europe, a big step in CEO Elon Musk’s quest to meet a huge projected international demand and transition more consumers onto sustainable energy.
The Twitter account “Model3VINs,” which tracks vehicles as they are registered with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, shared on Wednesday that 1,078 European Model 3s have been registered with the authority. These are identified by position six of the code, which normally uses a value of 1, 4, A, B or D to identify the restraint system in cars for the American market, but in these cases show the value “7.” Tesla’s official website explains that cars are issued with a VIN “approximately 5-6 weeks before planned production,” suggesting that Tesla’s expansion plans are working close to schedule.
The code registrations are the first major batch registered with the agency, after small registrations of seven European Model 3s in September and eight in November. The timing suggests these latest cars will enter production at the start of February. Musk told investors in October’s third-quarter earnings call that the company will likely start producing the Model 3 in significant volumes for Europe in January, shipping the cars to arrive in late February or March. Asia Pacific deliveries are expected to start in the second quarter of the year, around the same time as right-hand drive configurations for markets like the United Kingdom and Australia.
The expansion is part of a broader plan to transform Tesla into a mass-market electric vehicle company. Musk said during the company’s third-quarter earnings call that he predicts global Model 3 demand to reach “probably in the order of anywhere from 500,000 to one million cars a year,” a jump from the fewer than 500,000 total pre-orders placed for the Model 3 prior to the start of production in July 2017. The company has worked through this backlog by gradually reaching a production rate of 5,000 Model 3s per week. Tesla is planning to boost production to meet international demand, with plans to build a Shanghai Gigafactory producing around 250,000 cars per year for the China market.
Tesla is expected to announce another mass market vehicle, the Model Y sports utility vehicle, as early as March.
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