Tesla's Model 3 delivery plan is complicated -- here's what you need to know

Elon muskReuters StaffTesla CEO Elon Musk presents the Model 3 at a handover party in Fremont, California on July 28.

When most major automakers announce the production of a new vehicle, it typically rolls out to dealerships across the country within a year so everyone has a chance to get behind the wheel.

Tesla, on the other hand, has always operated differently. The company has historically struggled with the production of new vehicles, leaving early customers with long wait times before taking delivery.

The Model 3, the company’s first mass-market vehicle, is no different.

Tesla first revealed a pre-production Model 3 in March 2016 and began taking pre-orders. But the company didn’t show off the final production model until July at Tesla’s handover party.

Production has officially begun and the car will start rolling out to lucky buyers in the coming months. But the delivery plan is a bit complex — here’s the breakdown:

The waitlist

Tesla accumulated roughly 500,000 pre-orders since it began taking reservations in March 2016, but 63,000 customers ultimately decided to drop their pre-order.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been forthcoming about the production challenges ahead, but he doesn’t seem worried about the cancellations, comparing the situation to a restaurant with more hamburger orders than it can fill.

Total orders for the electric sedan net 455,000 after the cancellations, but Musk said Tesla is still receiving an average of 1,800 orders every day since the July event.

As a result, people who order the Model 3 today shouldn’t expect delivery of their car until mid-2018 at the earliest.

Who gets it first?

Model 3 Blue Driving EMBARGOED DO NOT USETeslaA Tesla Model 3 with the deep blue metallic paint job.

Tesla will go down its reservation list sequentially, but an early order doesn’t guarantee an early delivery.

When Tesla reaches your name on its order list, a company representative will ask how you want to option your car.

Tesla will offer an array of options, but there’s a long wait for most of them. Tesla will only deliver Premium trims with a white interior and no additional upgrades this fall.

The $US44,000 premium trim can drive 310 miles on a single charge and accelerate to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds.

Tesla will then start delivering its base Model 3 in November. The $US35,000 base trim has a 220-mile range and can accelerate to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds.

Essentially, those willing to pony up more for the premium trim will get early access. If you opt for various upgrades, you face a longer wait than those who select standard configurations.

Buyers outside the US face an even longer wait.

Tesla said international Model 3 deliveries will begin in late 2018. Left-hand drive markets will get the car first, followed by right-hand drive markets in early 2019.

As was the case with previous models, Tesla is starting off by only selling premium Model 3 sedans with rear-wheel drive. The dual-motor all-wheel drive configuration won’t be available until spring 2018.

Tesla will accelerate deliveries for customers who already own a Model S or Model X.

‘Production hell’

Tesla fremont factoryTeslaAn inside look at Tesla’s production facility in Fremont, California.

Musk has already said the first six months of Model 3 production will be “hell.”

Tesla is facing its largest order yet and is making the car for the first time with a completely new set of tools. Some workers pushing for a union at Tesla’s factory are preparing for bugs, kinks, and other growing pains.

Tesla also has an ambitious ramp-up plan for a new vehicle after struggling with Model S and Model X production. The company plans to produce 1,500 Model 3 sedans in September and grow that to 20,000 vehicles a month by December.

The company did keep manufacturing in mind when coming up with the final design for the Model 3. The car is far more minimalistic than the Model S and Model X, which should make production easier, Musk has said.

Either way, production won’t kick into high gear until late fall, and most configurations are due to arrive later. Those who ordered the Model 3 have a long wait ahead of them.

Get the latest Tesla stock price here.

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