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How Elon Musk has missed his targets on delivering affordable cars

FILE PHOTO: Visitors check a Tesla Model 3 car at a showroom of the U.S. electric vehicle (EV) maker in Beijing, China, Feb. 4, 2023. REUTERS/Florence Lo


(Reuters) – Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) Inc Chief Executive Elon Musk is expected to lay out details of affordable electric cars at the company’s Investor Day on Wednesday in Texas, where he will unveil the EV maker’s “Master Plan 3.”

Musk said making an affordable car has been his “dream” since joining the company. While Tesla has jump-started the EV market by offering its premium Model 3 and Model Y vehicles, Musk has missed his targets to deliver electric vehicles attractively priced for the mass market.

“We specialize in making the impossible merely late,” he said at an event in February to celebrate the launch of Tesla’s engineering headquarters in Palo Alto, California.

Here is a timeline of his comments on affordable vehicles.


Musk unveiled his “secret” master plan under which he said he would build affordable electric cars. “So, in short, the master plan is: Build sports car, Use that money to build an affordable car, Use that money to build an even more affordable car.”


Musk said Tesla would launch a $35,000 Model 3 electric sedan before government incentives by the end of 2017, but the version was only briefly available starting in 2019. At present, Tesla’s least expensive car after a recent price cut is $42,990 for a Model 3 standard range version. It costs about $35,000 after U.S. government incentives of $7,500 that could be cut in half starting in March depending on requirements for battery minerals.


At an event called Battery Day, Musk said he was “confident” that Tesla would make a small, compelling $25,000 electric car that was fully autonomous, within about three years, as he unveiled a plan to develop less expensive batteries.

Musk’s self-driving “robotaxis” have not become a reality despite his repeated promises. Tesla recently recalled more than 362,000 U.S. vehicles over its Full Self-Driving (FSD) Beta software after U.S. regulators said the driver assistance system did not adequately adhere to traffic safety laws and could cause crashes.


When asked by an investor about a $25,000 car, Musk said Tesla was not developing the car, saying “we have enough on our plate right now, too much on our plate, frankly.” The question is “sort of the wrong question, really,” he said, adding that what overwhelmingly matters is when the car will be autonomous.


Musk said Tesla was working on the next-generation vehicle, which would be probably be about half the cost of the Model 3 and Y platform. Tesla said its cost per vehicle was $36,000 in late 2021.


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