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Elon Musk touts March 14 Model Y event as demand questions linger

San Francisco

ELON Musk said on Sunday that Tesla will unveil its Model Y crossover in less than two weeks, as questions about store closures, employee layoffs and demand in the wake of waning US federal tax credits threaten the company's growth narrative.

Tesla first unveiled the Model 3 at its Hawthorne, California, design studio in March 2016. Tesla product launches, which feature throngs of customers willing to put down deposits on the spot, are typically highly orchestrated affairs that generate enormous interest and media attention. American consumers are increasingly shifting from sedans to SUVs, and the Model Y is the next offering in the company's product pipeline.

On Tesla's fourth-quarter earnings call in January, Mr Musk said Tesla had completed the engineering and design of the Model Y and that "three-quarters of the Model Y is common with the Model 3". The company may produce the vehicle at Tesla's gigafactory east of Reno, Nevada, where batteries and powertrains are also made.

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In subsequent tweets on Sunday, Mr Musk said that the Model Y will have "normal" doors as opposed to the Falcon Wing doors that distinguished the Model X, and the Model Y will cost about 10 per cent more than the Model 3 since it is a larger SUV. The company's pricing is largely based on the battery range offered.

On Thursday, Tesla announced that customers can now order the US$35,000 Model 3 with the standard range battery, a long-awaited goal. The carmaker also said that it is "winding down" many of its stores and shifting to an online sales strategy in a blog post, a move that caught many by surprise. The shares tumbled 7.8 per cent to US$294.79 on Friday.

Phone calls to several US stores on Sunday went unanswered and were routed to Tesla's California headquarters. Tesla declined to comment beyond the blog post. BLOOMBERG