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Tesla's Model 3 is the fastest-selling car ever. Image by Tesla.

Tesla's Model 3 is the fastest-selling car ever
All-electric Tesla compact saloon gets 300,000 orders two years before it goes on sale.
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What's all this then?

This is simply stunning. When was the last time that you can recall people not only ordering a car before they'd ever even seen it, but actually camping out the night before to get in line to do so? This is normally the preserve of Wrestlemania tickets, not car sales.

The Tesla Model 3, though, is breaking all the rules.

Tesla's first compact car, which is due to cost around $35,000 in the USA when it goes on sale in 2018, is pretty much exactly what we expected - a shrunken Model S in styling (with some cues from the Model X SUV) with a minimalist interior and, at minimum, a 200-mile one-charge range. More expensive versions will be able to go for 300 miles between charges, and Tesla is promising a major expansion in its free-to-use Supercharger network both in the US and Europe to cope with Model 3 demand.

And what demand. Analysts had been expecting the Model 3 to be a success, with at least 115,000 sales in its first year. Well, that figure was passed within hours of the car's reveal, and barely 24 hours later Tesla boss Elon Musk was taking to Twitter to announce that 276,000 Model 3s had been ordered. That number has now surpassed the 300,000 mark, meaning that the car is sold out for at least the first couple of years of production.

And it's not even close to being ready yet. Although Tesla has been testing prototypes, the cars shown first to the public didn't even have completed interiors. The ultra-minimalist cabins shown on the day, with their squared-off steering wheel and free-floating centre console came in for as much criticism as praise, prompting Musk to take to Twitter once again to reassure people that the cabin design is not yet finished and that we will see the final version in a few months.

The lack of enthusiasm for the interior certainly didn't dampen spirits amongst buyers and those making pre-orders. With deposits of at least $1,000 being taken with each order, analysts are now estimating that Tesla has made $500 million in pre-order income this week, and the share price for the company rose dramatically as a result.

If you're one of those waiting for a Model 3 in the UK, we'd advise a little patience. Tesla's factory capacity is severely limited at the moment, and that's without the Model X SUV even being in full production. Its vast 'Giga-Factory' in Nevada is still getting up to speed and the European plant in The Netherlands is still just building knock-down kits supplied from the US, so that's no great help as yet. Working through this backlog of orders for the Model 3, as well as keeping Model S and Model X sales on the boil, while also completing the final development and testing of the 3, is going to stretch Tesla to the limit. Can the world's most famous start-up car maker keep up with its own success?

Neil Briscoe - 8 Apr 2016    - Tesla road tests
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