Tesla is expected to start production on the Model 3 sedan in about five months, and there’s still plenty of work to be done. In preparation for the launch, Tesla will begin building prototypes of the entry-level sedan on February 20, sources told Reuters.
It’s unknown how many prototypes Tesla will build at its Fremont factory, but likely a small number. These units will help Tesla ensure the quality of its vehicle parts and work out any bugs in the assembly system. Tesla announced it will halt production at its California assembly plant for a week this month to help prepare for the Model 3.
During the production stoppage, Tesla will perform general maintenance and add capacity to its paint shop. “This will allow Tesla to begin Model 3 production later this year as planned and enable us to start the ramp towards 500,000 vehicles annually in 2018,” a Tesla spokesman told Reuters.
Production and delivery targets shouldn’t be affected, Tesla says, because it has added extra production days to compensate for the shutdown.
Last year, Tesla CEO Elon Musk estimated Model 3 production would begin in July 2017. However, he has also said the timeline could be delayed if suppliers don’t follow through on time. And given Tesla’s history of delays, many analysts aren’t optimistic Tesla will be able to meet the goal.
A source told Reuters that Tesla was still making design changes to the Model 3 as late as last week. More than 370,000 customers have put down deposits for the $35,000 electric sedan, according to the estimates from last May.
As Tesla prepares to build 500,000 cars annually by 2018, or about four to five times the production levels of last year, the automaker reportedly wants to double the size of its Fremont factory. According to reports, Tesla is looking to increase the size of the Fremont plant by about 4.6 million square-feet and add thousands of new employees.
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