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Musk unveils Tesla's US$35,000 Model 3 in push for mass market

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Elon Musk revealed Tesla Motors Inc's Model 3, the sedan that the electric-car maker is counting on to expand its customer base and reach sustainable profitability, to cap a day in which more than 115,000 fans placed orders in stores that attracted lines out the door.

[CALIFORNIA] Elon Musk revealed Tesla Motors Inc's Model 3, the sedan that the electric-car maker is counting on to expand its customer base and reach sustainable profitability, to cap a day in which more than 115,000 fans placed orders in stores that attracted lines out the door.

The battery-powered Model 3 will have about 215 miles (346 kilometers) range per charge, Mr Musk, Tesla's chief executive officer, told a packed crowd at the company's Hawthorne, California, design studio Thursday.

The billionaire said he felt "fairly confident" deliveries will begin in 2017 for customers who've made US$1,000 reservations.

"You will not be able to buy a better car for $35,000, or even close," Mr Musk, 44, said Thursday of the base model.

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"It's a really good car, even with no options."

The Model 3 is the linchpin of Tesla's plan to reach beyond affluent buyers and make electric vehicles a significant part of the auto market.

Much of the car's platform is new, including the battery architecture and motor technology.

Many of the executives who worked on the Model 3, including Chief Technology Officer JB Straubel and chief designer Franz von Holzhausen, have been part of the company's leadership team for years.

Customers in the new markets of Brazil, India and Musk's native South Africa were among consumers able to place orders online.

By the time Tesla's Short Hills, New Jersey, store opened to take reservations at 10 am, more than 200 people had queued up. 

Soji Ojugbele, 29, a software quality tester from Plainfield, New Jersey, had been in line since 4 am.

"I test drove the Model S and just fell in love," he said in an interview.

"If you're as passionate about something as people are about the Tesla, it's not a surprise."

US Tesla customers are eager to get their cars before the US$7,500 federal tax credit for electric vehicles is phased out.

While the Model 3's base price still makes it a luxury model, it is not nearly the financial stretch for consumers as the US$75,000 Model S.

"I've been waiting to buy an electric car for 10 years," said Mark Dilsizian, a doctoral student at New Jersey's Rutgers University who also runs a software startup. "It's safer, it's greener, it's better performing, it's better designed."

Tesla's "master plan," laid out by Musk in August 2006, was to enter the auto industry at higher-end prices, then drive down market as fast as possible with increasingly higher volumes.

The Model 3 is the Palo Alto, California-based company's fourth car, after the Roadster, the Model S sedan and the Model X sport utility vehicle.

The Model X was unveiled in February 2012, with delays pushing back the initial deliveries to customers until September 2015.

Model 3 faces an increasingly competitive landscape. General Motors Co plans to release its all-electric Chevrolet Bolt at a similar price point later this year.

The Model 3 likely will target buyers who also would consider small luxury sedans such as the Audi A4 and BMW's 3 series.

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