2017 Tesla Model 3 in pilot production: Musk tweets photos of first car (updated with video)

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The 2017 Tesla Model 3 has apparently entered pilot production, following a pair of photos tweeted by Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

The caption on the first of the two photos, this one black-and-white, says simply, "First production Model 3."

The second photo, tweeted 40 minutes later, is in full color but bears no caption.

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Musk said on July 3 that he anticipated the first production Model 3 electric car, with serial number 001 ("SN1"), would be completed on Friday, July 7.

A day and a half later, it's unclear when the car identified as the first one finally rolled off the line, or even what color it is, since the photo is in black and white.

Following a video from the photo shoot, however, the car in the second, uncaptioned photo is likely the same car—and it appears to be black.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was published just before noon on Sunday, July 9. Subsequently, reader Brian Henderson pointed us to a video of the car being positioned during the photo shoot, which we've added above with some updates to the copy.

In particular, he suggests, note the door and door handle action of the Model 3, and the alpha version of the car in the background with charcoal wheels. Our thanks to Brian for the tip.

The first 30 customers to receive their Model 3s are expected to get them, per another Musk tweet, at a "handover party" on July 28.

The configuration tool that will let Model 3 reservation-holders specify the colors and options they want on their cars is not yet online.

On June 6, Musk promised that the configurator would go live around the end of July, once the handover event is held.

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Fewer than 100 different combinations of features and options will be offered on the Model 3 when that tool goes live, however—versus about 1,500 for the company's core Model S.

At last month's annual meeting for Tesla shareholders, Musk suggested that the earliest Model 3 buyers will receive rear-wheel-drive vehicles, with their choices limited to just the car's color and its wheel design and size.

Monthly Model 3 production, Musk said previously, will grow "exponentially" through the rest of the year.

2017 Tesla Model 3, in photo tweeted by Elon Musk on July 9, 2017

2017 Tesla Model 3, in photo tweeted by Elon Musk on July 9, 2017

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Tesla Model 3 design prototype - reveal event - March 2016

Tesla Model 3 design prototype - reveal event - March 2016

Enlarge Photo
Tesla Model 3 spotted at service center

Tesla Model 3 spotted at service center

Enlarge Photo

Assuming the July production of largely hand-built Model 3s (using parts from production tooling) totals about 30 or so cars, he suggested that August's total would be 100 or so cars coming off the line in August, followed by 1,500 in September.

Musk said it "looks like" Tesla could be building as many as 20,000 Model 3s a month by December.

That would be a remarkable feat by a company that built slightly fewer than 84,000 Model S hatchback sedans and Model X crossover utility vehicles during all of 2016, and delivered 76,230 of them to paying customers.

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In the first six months of this year, it built a further 51,000 and delivered 47,100 of them.

The Tesla Model 3 is expected to carry a base price of $35,000 before incentives, and offer an EPA-rated range of 215 miles or more.

It will be the second sub-$40,000 electric car on the market with that range; the Chevrolet Bolt EV hatchback went on sale in California last December with a rated range of 238 miles.

It is likely to be the first electric car in that price range to offer all-wheel drive, however: that should become available, Musk has said, around the turn of the year.

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