Tesla just sent invitations to media for its expected March 31st event at its Hawthorne, California facility where it will unveil the Model 3, the company's first mass-market vehicle. CEO Elon Musk had previously said that he hadn't decided how much of the car to show at the event — it isn't expected to be in production until next year at the earliest — but the invitation suggests that we're going to see the whole car.
Tune in for the 3/31 unveiling on https://t.co/7Ol1Bw0ZaG #Model3 pic.twitter.com/P1PY0U8H4T— Tesla Motors (@TeslaMotors) March 15, 2016
The Model 3 is widely viewed as a make-or-break vehicle for Tesla, which has so far focused on much more expensive models that have only sold in the tens of thousands — a tiny fraction of the millions of vehicles sold by major automakers every year. The 3 will rely on the so-called Gigafactory to meet its battery needs, a massive facility under construction in the Nevada desert that Tesla says will reach peak manufacturing capacity in 2020. Whereas a Model S or Model X can cost upwards of $100,000, a Model 3 is expected to start in the vicinity of $35,000 before tax breaks; it'll go head-to-head with Chevy's $30,000 Bolt (after tax breaks) that will go on sale later this year. Both are expected to offer 200-plus miles of range on a charge, far more practical than the sub-100-mile cars that have dominated the affordable EV market thus far.
Tesla's Hawthorne facility — which is adjacent to SpaceX headquarters — isn't very large, so it'll be interesting to see how many people the company can pack in for the announcement. It was previously reported that some Tesla owners have received invites to the event. The company previously unveiled the P85D and Autopilot at the Hawthorne building in late 2014, but more recently chose to unveil the production version of the Model X at its Fremont plant near San Francisco.