Pilot production of Tesla Model 3 to start Feb 20: report

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Tesla Model 3 Driving on a Public Road

Tesla Model 3 Driving on a Public Road

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Tesla said yesterday it would shut down its production lines for one week this month to prepare for the launch of its upcoming Model 3 electric sedan.

The Silicon Valley carmaker said the "brief, planned pause" was to add paint-shop capacity and do general maintenance at its assembly plant in Fremont, California.

An exclusive Reuters news service report last night added more detail, citing an unnamed source who said a handful of early Model 3 units would be built starting February 20.

DON'T MISS: How many Tesla Model 3 electric cars can company build in 2017?

The number of such pilot-production units would be small, the Reuters report suggested.

According to its source, the goal would be to test both the quality of parts provided by suppliers and the overall assembly system it has been installing at Fremont for the Model 3.

"What better way to stoke the fan base and Wall Street," another source asked Reuters, "than to wheel out pre-production models" before Tesla's 2016 year-end earnings call.

Tesla factory, Fremont, California

Tesla factory, Fremont, California

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The company's 2016 full-year financial reports will be released on Wednesday, February 22, followed by a call for financial analysts.

The letter to shareholders that is to be released that day may contain updated projections for Model 3 production volume this year.

READ THIS: Tesla Model 3 targets: 100K in 2017, 400K in 2018, say skeptical suppliers (May 2016)

Last May, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the company "would aim to produce 100,000 to 200,000 Model 3s in the second half of next year."

That's a very aggressive ramp-up for a new model from a company that built a total of 83,922 vehicles last year, its highest production ever. 

Tesla Model 3 spotted at service center

Tesla Model 3 spotted at service center

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The Reuters report suggested that the company was still making final design changes to the Model 3, which would likely make the start of volume production before the end of 2017 more challenging.

The company's prior launches of the Model S and Model X were marked by low initial volumes and early quality problems, most resolved during the first several months of production.

CHECK OUT: Tesla's new manufacturing chief has a lot on his plate (Model 3, mostly)

Musk has said the Model 3 will be "easy to make" and has projected a total volume of 500,000 cars for 2018, representing Model S, Model X, and Model 3 combined.

The company took more than 350,000 deposits of $1,000 each on the Model 3 when it was unveiled last March.

Tesla declined to comment to Reuters on any of the assertions in the article, and did not respond to the news service's questions.

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