The Tesla Model 3 backlog may well be cleared up — unless you want the $35,000 base model, that is. Go online to Tesla, and if you live in a big metro area, you’ll likely see dozens of new Tesla Model 3 sedans you can buy today and take home in a couple of days. It helps if you like the Standard Range Plus Rear-Wheel Drive, and it helps a lot if you’ll take any color that’s black.
Most of the Model 3s are selling for $41,000-$42,000, and that’s the real price, not the price-after-credits game Tesla plays. The Standard Range is rated at 240 miles.
Go to Tesla.com, click on Model 3, and you get choices to Custom Order and now Existing Inventory. Put in your zip code and you’ll get a selection of new vehicles 25-50-100-200 miles from home. (The majority of cars are within 50 or 100 miles of urban areas because Tesla seldom locates next to the John Deere dealer farther afield).
In New York City, we found 29 new Model 3s with a 200-mile search and 26 with a 100-mile search. In northern New Jersey, we found as many as 31. In Chicago, 29. In Atherton, CA, one of the Tesla early adopter cities, just three Model 3s were available anywhere nearby (but 33 Model Ss and 12 Model Xs). In Los Angeles, 15. In Atlanta, 2. Ditto 2 in Dallas.
So they’re out there. A common price for the lowest-cost readily available Tesla is the Model 3 Standard Range Plus (240-mile range), with rear-wheel-drive, AutoPilot, solid black paint, 18-inch alloy wheels, and an all-black Partial Premium Interior is $40,500 with 1-10 miles on the odometer. A 2019 Model 3 Long Range All-Wheel-Drive with 310 miles range, 19-inch wheels, and the Premium Interior is $52,000.
Tesla lists the Model 3’s price at $32,450 after “estimated savings,” primarily meaning federal tax credits ($3,750), but also imputed savings from not buying the gasoline for a gasoline-power car. (The Model 3 Long Range’s “price after estimated savings is $43,950.)
The average person drives between 10,000 and 15,000 miles and spends between $1,000 and $1,500 on gasoline per year. In comparison, the cost of electricity to power Model 3 over the same distance is up to three times lower. Over the six year average length of car ownership, that’s between $4,300 and $6,400 in gasoline savings.
We’ve assumed a fuel economy of 28 miles per gallon for a comparable gasoline powered sedan, for example, the 2017 BMW 3 series. We’ve also assumed the national average of $0.13 per kilowatt-hour for electricity and $2.85 per gallon for premium gasoline over the next six years
The same “Existing Inventory” selector also lets buyers directly find Tesla used cars as well. Availability varies widely by region. In most regions we checked, there were few or no used Model 3s on sale.
We’ll know more about how Tesla is doing Wednesday when it reports 2019 first-quarter earnings (probably soft) and sales (likely less than a year ago). We may also get more insight into what’s happened to Tesla’s huge backlog of on-order Model 3s. At the end of 2018’s second quarter, Tesla said it had a backlog of 420,000 Model 3s on order by Tesla faithful. Tesla sold about 56,000 Model 3s in Q3 and 61,000 in Q4 but it also was cranking out huge amounts of Model 3s at the same time it was selling record amounts Q3-Q4.
Tesla has begun cranking up sales outside the US. But the math suggests there may still be several hundred thousand back-order Model 3s, unless hand-raisers who also wrote $2,500 checks have all given up. This may be clearer Wednesday at the sales/earnings report.
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