Home Cars Thinking of ordering a Tesla Model 3? Here’s how long you may have to wait

Thinking of ordering a Tesla Model 3? Here’s how long you may have to wait

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Days after Tesla opened up the Model 3 configurator to all potential buyers, not just reservation holders who got a place in line over a year ago, uncomfortable math lingers over the automaker's pace of production and delivery. The most pressing question for potential buyers has been, "If I order a Model 3 today, when might I actually receive it?"

Nearly a month ago Tesla announced that it had achieved the 5,000-cars-per-week target by the end of the second quarter of 2018, reaching that number of completed vehicles during the very last week of June a few hours after the midnight deadline. Under the watchful eye of Wall Street and industry observers, the automaker effectively delivered on a set of long-delayed production promises … while also shedding light on just how many cars it had yet to build and deliver.

"The remaining net Model 3 reservations count at the end of Q2 still stood at roughly 420,000 even though we have now delivered 28,386 Model 3 vehicles to date," Tesla said at the beginning of July. "When we start to provide customers an opportunity to see and test-drive the car at their local store, we expect that our orders will grow faster than our production rate. Model 3 Dual Motor All Wheel Drive and Model 3 Dual Motor All Wheel Drive Performance cars will also be available in our stores shortly."

But the numbers that have been produced to date and those that remain are pretty far apart — and very daunting. Even amid a report that the pace of Model 3 cancellations is outpacing the number of new orders (which Tesla denied), the automaker by its own admission still has to churn out a not-insignificant 420,000 cars. Since we're approaching the end of July, we can notch that down to 400,000 to account for the quicker pace of production and deliveries this month, essentially assuming that the month of July will have seen four full weeks of the 5,000-cars-per-week production rate.

Even at a pace of 5,000 cars per week, Tesla will produce about 115,000 Model 3s through the end of the year, which represents 23 full weeks of production. The pace of assembly, of course, is expected to grow through the end of 2018, but at the current rate the automaker won't be able to fulfill even 50 percent of its remaining orders through the end of this year. To produce the remaining 285,000 Model 3s in 2019, Tesla will only have to churn out about 5,500 cars per week during those 52 weeks.

The upside to this math is that by the second half of 2019, Tesla is expected to work through its entire backlog of orders even at a rate of 5,000 to 5,500 cars per week, which it is expected to top shortly. This is not a tall order — the company merely has to maintain this average rate through the next 17 months — and these are conservative figures based on numbers that the company has publicly shared. Tesla expects to hit a rate of 6,000 cars per week by late August 2018, so the production pace may pick up at that point.

The downside is that somebody still has to be at the end of the line with a waiting time of as much as 17 months to receive their Model 3 at the current rate of production; that's just math based on the number of reservations and current production pace. As Tesla has indicated, those who had placed reservations over a year ago have priority in this line, but depending on the version of the Model 3 you order today the wait time can stretch all the way into late 2019.

Tesla has stated on a number of occasions that the bare-bones $35,000 Model 3s will be produced later in the cycle, so if you're itching for one today you should probably expect a pretty lengthy waiting period.

We should also point out that all Model 3s are not alike … but we're not talking about just the panel fit here. Tesla has announced this month that the "delivery window" for the Performance version will be merely one to three months — same for a Long Range Rear Wheel Drive model — while the delivery window for the Long Range Dual Motor is two to four months. The Standard model, meanwhile, is still listed at six to nine months, which may be too optimistic an estimate at this point in time. In fact, a lot of these delivery windows have proven to be too optimistic based on hundreds of comments by reservation holders.

Needless to say, your actual delivery times will vary based on the version you order today, if you choose to do so. Even some of those who reserved a spot all the way back in March 2016 had only received an invitation to configure a car in March 2018, which means they're only now getting their cars. Meanwhile, those who reserved a Model 3 in April of this year are being quoted delivery windows of "late 2018." Keep in mind that these delivery windows are for well-optioned cars that Tesla has given priority in their production plans, so it's a good bet that a bare-bones Model 3 with a Standard battery could be further away than even the quoted times.

But even as reservations are converted into invitations-to-configure and cars are delivered, there are still reservations that are way, way back on the back burner — there is no avoiding the math of the backlog of orders — and production miracles have been in short supply in Fremont a year into Model 3 assembly.

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