PALO ALTO, California — The 2017 Tesla Model 3 sedan, the electric carmaker's first affordable mainstream vehicle, will be introduced on March 31 with production and deliveries slated for late 2017, Tesla Motors said in an update on Wednesday.
"I think this is going to be really well received," said Tesla CEO Elon Musk in a media conference call.
He later tweeted: "Model 3 reservations ($1,000 down) will be accepted in Tesla stores on March 31 and online April 1."
Formal pricing has not been announced, but the Model 3 will be priced around $35,000, roughly half of the cost of the larger 2016 Tesla Model S electric sedan.
When asked whether Model S demand would be affected once the Model 3 rolls out, Musk said he did not anticipate that happening.
"They are different market segments," he said.
"If you want the sort of 'ultimate machine,' you want to get the Model S, but Model 3 will be a great car," Musk said in a sly reference to BMW's longtime ad campaign.
Tesla also updated the progress of the 2016 Tesla Model X electric SUV, saying that it kicked off its Model X test-drive tour for reservation holders last week.
"We are making more Model X vehicles available at our stores for viewing and test-drives in the weeks to come," it said in a fourth quarter and full year 2015 update.
The update noted: "Model X reservations grew over 75 percent as compared to the prior year despite extremely limited initial exposure for this vehicle."
In January 2016, Tesla limited Model X production for a time to "maintain quality production standards." The SUV features dramatic falcon-wing doors.
"We are already seeing improvement from these efforts and we are now significantly increasing our Model X production throughout the balance of the quarter," the company said. "We anticipate approaching a Model X production rate of 1,000 vehicles a week in Q2."
In a candid assessment of the Model X, Musk said: "The mistake that we made with Model X is that we put too many great things all at once into the product.
"In retrospect, it would have been better to do fewer things and then roll in capabilities and features over time. (There's) some hubris there with the X. The net result is the Model X is an amazing car. I honestly think it's the best car ever. I'm not sure anyone's ever going to make a car like this again. I'm not sure Tesla will make a car like this again."
Challenges in building the Model X ranged from concerns with the second-row seats to the seals around the panoramic cockpit-style windshield.
The update also said Tesla plans to open about 80 retail locations and service centers in 2016 and "energize" about 300 new Supercharger locations.
Low gasoline prices have not dented Tesla's order books, the company said.
"We continue to see no perceptible impact to our order growth from the change in the price of gasoline as our order rates have continued to increase even as the price of gasoline has fallen," the update said. "In fact, our customers tell us they value a Tesla vehicle more for its superior performance, technology, safety, lower environmental impact and style than for its ability to save money on fuel."
One thing that consumers probably will not see in 2016 is Tesla advertising.
"Tesla does not advertise," Musk said. "We don't pay for any endorsements, we do not discount our cars for anyone, including me."
Edmunds says: This year may be a big leap forward for Tesla as more car shoppers become familiar with the brand, its showrooms and growing product offerings.