CALIFORNIA, US - Tesla has unveiled its much-anticipated Model 3 electric car - its lowest-cost vehicle to date.
The price and range of the five-seater should make the vehicle appeal to new types of customers and could boost interest in other electric vehicles. Chief executive Elon Musk said his goal was to produce about 500,000 vehicles a year once production is at full speed. The California-based company needs the vehicle to prove popular if it is to stay in business. The first deliveries of the vehicle are scheduled to start in late 2017, and it can be ordered in advance in dozens of countries, including the UK, Ireland, Brazil, India, China and New Zealand. The basic model will start at $35,000 (£24,423) and have a range of at least 215 miles (346km) per charge. Tesla delivered 50,580 vehicles last year. Most of those were its Model S saloon, which overtook Nissan's Leaf to become the world's best selling pure-electric vehicle. But the firm still posted a net loss of $889m (£620m) for 2015, partly because it spent $718m on research and development over the period. It left Tesla with cash reserves of $1.2bn, down from $1.9bn a year earlier. "For a long time there had been questions about the long term viability of Tesla," commented Jessica Caldwell, an industry analyst at the car research site Edmunds. "With niche products like the Model S and the Model X, it hasn't been hitting any sales targets that would sustain its business. "So, launching what it hopes will be high-volume vehicle is going to show if it can become a fully-fledged auto company that will succeed in the long-term rather than one that pumps out a few cool cars and then goes bust, as we've seen happen with other electric car start-ups such as Fisker." Mr Musk added that the car should feel more spacious to passengers than similar-sized petrol-based cars because of design decisions Tesla could make by not using a combustion engine.(FA)