Tesla bets big on first mass-market model

Electric car maker Tesla unveiled its Model 3 late Thursday, the first model pitched at the mass market, in what experts say could be a game-changer for the sector.

The Model 3 was to start shipping by late 2017 for 35,000 dollars. The basic version can go 345 kilometres between charges, and accelerate from 0-60 miles per hour (97 kilometres per hour) in six seconds.

Around 115,000 pre-orders, along with downpayments of 1,000 dollars each, were made in the first 24 hours of availability, Tesla chief Elon Musk said from the company's design studio in Los Angeles.

Since it was started in 2003, the company has marketed the Model S limousine, and the Model X luxury SUV, both sold for more than twice the price of the Model 3.

"With Tesla's Model 3, electric cars have an opportunity to break into the middle classes," said Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, an expert from the University of Duisburg-Essen.

The new Tesla undercuts its closest rival, GM's Chevrolet Bolt EV, which sells for around 37,000 dollars and also has a range of more than 300 kilometres.

The two models are effectively a litmus test of the market for all-electric cars, which last year made up just 0.3 per cent of the 17.5 million new cars sold in the United States, but are set to take a growing slice of the market.

Tesla, which has not yet turned an annual profit, is betting big on that growth, building a billion-dollar factory in Nevada to produce the rechargeable batteries for the cars.

"Whether it will pay for itself in the long run, no one yet knows," Dudenhoeffer said of the company's strategy.

Last update: Tue, 28/06/2016 - 17:25
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