Tesla is going all in on its next car

JB Straubel Reno NevadaScreenshot from YouTubeTesla CTO JB Straubel.

Tesla just launched its Model X SUV and rolled out an Autopilot semi-self-driving feature for some Model S sedans.

But that doesn’t mean the company is resting on its laurels.

Quite the contrary.

If it’s going to make its own production and delivery goals for 2015, it needs to build about 17,000 vehicles by the end of the year. It’s never assembled and sold that many cars in a quarter before.

And in early 2016, the company is slated to reveal a prototype of its Model 3 mass-market car. The Model 3 is really more a “platform” than a specific vehicle. Tesla is likely to build both a mid-size sedan and a compact SUV off the same basic vehicle architecture.

Electrek reported that Tesla’s CTO, JB Straubel, said this week that Tesla was now shifting the majority of its efforts to Model 3 development.

“[M]ost of the people inside Tesla are no longer working on the S or X, but they are hard at work designing and inventing all the technologies going into the Model 3,” he said, in a speech at the University of Nevada, Reno, to present an internship that Tesla is sponsoring at its Gigafactory, Electrek reported.

Tesla has about 15,000 employees now, so it was unclear whether Straubel meant that the entire company is pivoting to work on Model 3, projected to cost $US35,000, or whether Tesla’s development people have been refocused.

We reached out to Tesla for some clarification and will update if we hear back.

In any case, it makes sense for Tesla to push hard to get the Model 3 launched on schedule in 2017. This is the game-changer for electric cars. Most Model S sedans and the majority of the early Model X SUVs are going to sell for $US100,000 or more. There’s no real market share there, certainly not in the US, where luxury automakers like BMW and Audi have a few profitable points of share versus GM’s 17-18%.

Without the Model 3, Tesla is niche. With it, Tesla could achieve the scale its needs to begin altering the transportation landscape.

NOW WATCH: Here’s what it’s like to drive a Tesla on the new Autopilot mode

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