Tesla has staked a lot on the number of reservation deposits it has received for the Model 3.
When the company first opened reservations for the car two years ago, it said that more than 400,000 people had put down a $1,000 deposit for what Tesla billed as a $35,000 car. That number eventually rose to 450,000.
The deposits are fully refundable, and with Tesla's cash supply running low and reported production numbers not living up to expectations, the number of customers who have maintained their reservations has become a matter of heated speculation.
Tesla Model 3 deposits, June 2018- Source: Second Measure
New data is now showing that about 23 percent of reservation holders have received refunds. The data comes from Second Measure, a company that analyzes credit-card transactions, as reported by Recode.net.
The cancellations could stem from delays in the production of the promised "affordable" Model 3 with the smaller battery and a 220-mile range. So far Tesla has only built more expensive Model 3s with the more expensive long-range battery rated at 310 miles.
In its earnings release on May 2, Tesla blamed cancellations on "delays in production in general and delays in availability of certain planned options, particularly dual motor AWD and the smaller battery pack." The next Model 3s slated for production are even more expensive all-wheel drive and Performance models.
Second Measure reports that Tesla still has 450,000 deposits. About 60 percent of them were made in the first month the company accepted deposits, April 2016. More reservations have continued to flow in at the same time as some customers have asked for refunds. .
The largest number of refunds occurred this April when Tesla CEO Elon Musk reported that all-wheel drive and base, short-range Model 3s could be delayed by six to nine months.
A few weeks later Musk announced that the company would open orders for the all-wheel drive and Performance models.
Tesla deposits and refunds, June 2018- Source: Second Measure
April also saw the largest jump in the number of Tesla customers who paid a $2,500 fee to configure their cars, a second step that puts a car's specific build configuration into Tesla's assembly sequence weeks before the car is delivered.
Tesla told Recode.net that Second Measure's figures did not align with the number of reservations Tesla actually holds for the Model 3. Green Car Reports reached out to Tesla for comment, but had not heard back before publication.
Second Measure has had a good track record of gauging Model 3 reservations. Last August, it reported that Tesla had 455,000 reservations after 63,000 cancellations, which dovetailed with a report at the time by Musk