“We have been forgiving of Tesla because they’ve been on the forefront of electric cars, but they need to get their act together before they lose people like us,” Melikian, who lives in Phoenix, said Friday. “If another company comes up with a car similar in mileage range and style to Tesla, we may not wait.”
The amount of customer deposits Tesla has collected slipped to $905.8 million as of the end of September, a 3.9 percent dip from three months earlier. The company is expected to update this figure when it reports fourth-quarter earnings Jan. 30.
Musk, 47, wrote Friday that Tesla’s surprise profit in the third quarter was due partially to the company selling higher-priced Model 3 variants. While preliminary results indicate the carmaker earned a profit again in the last three months of 2018, earnings probably shrank on a sequential basis, he said.
This quarter, Tesla plans to start shipping pricier versions of the Model 3 to Europe and Asia, which Musk wrote will “hopefully allow us, with great difficulty, effort and some luck, to target a tiny profit.” Starting around May, Tesla will have to deliver mid-range Model 3s to all markets to reach enough customers who can afford its vehicles, he said.
Daniel Sefton, who lives in London, is awaiting the base-price Model 3 to take on road trips across Europe.
“It’s just not affordable for me,” he said of the longer-range versions of the sedan that will be available initially. “I’d prefer to have a car I can drive freely, that I don’t have to worry about all the time.”
The Tesla stretch
Other Musk fans are tapping their wallet for far more than usual to buy a new car -- a phenomenon some Model 3 buyers have called the “Tesla stretch.” Janelle Tarman bought her metallic blue sedan in December for $58,000. She was anxious to purchase, partly because she feared the base model Musk has promised will never materialize.
“I feel like it was almost a bait-and-switch kind of deal,” said Tarman, who paid extra for the paint job and Tesla’s Autopilot driver-assist system. “Not that I don’t love my car.”
Some of Tesla’s critics question whether the company should even be moving down-market in price. Musk should be satisfied he’s been able to create an electric-vehicle rival to Porsche, said David Kirsch, an associate professor of management and entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland. Tesla is attempting a technological Hail Mary by putting what are still-expensive batteries in cars and trying to sell them at mass-market prices, he said.
“Musk is living in a fantasy world,” Kirsch said.