Updated from 8:25 a.m. with Tesla's Thursday share price.
Tesla's TSLA future largely rides on the successful launch of the Model 3, its $35,000 mass-market vehicle -- and you'll be able to order it sooner than you think.
CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter last night after the company's fourth-quarter conference call to say that customers can put $1,000 down on the Model 3 starting March 31 in the company's stores, and online on April 1. He also indicated there would be no premium signature series for the Model 3, as there is for the Model X.
Model 3 reservations ($1000 down) will be accepted in Tesla stores on March 31 and online April 1— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 11, 2016
No signature series for Model 3. Same reservation amount for all.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 11, 2016
In the company's shareholder letter, Tesla said it would unveil the Model 3 on March 31 as well, with the car "on schedule for production & deliveries in late 2017."
The fact that Tesla continues to keep the late-2017 delivery start for the Model 3 is a good sign, as some analysts were concerned the company could not meet the date. Musk has had a habit of overpromising and underdelivering on dates.
Musk said the Model 3 should compete with cars such as the BMW 3-Series or Audi's A4.
He also noted that the Model 3 will not be in the same class as the Model S. "And so, if you want this sort of opulent machine, you'd really want to get the Model S," Musk said on the conference call. He then said, "The Model 3 will be a great car."
For the fourth quarter, Tesla lost an adjusted 87 cents a share on $1.75 billion in revenue. Analysts were expecting adjusted earnings of 8 cents a share on $1.8 billion in sales. Palo Alto, Calif.-based Tesla said it expects to deliver between 80,000 and 90,000 vehicles, well above the 72,000 Wall Street analysts were expecting, and the stock rose on the higher delivery guidance. By Thursday morning the shares were up 7% to $153.75.
On Feb. 1, Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas cut his price target by more than a quarter, citing "lowered volume expectations for Model X and Model 3, a lower valuation for Tesla Energy, and accelerating competition in the mobility business." In cutting his price target, Jonas said he now expects a late 2018 launch for the Model 3, a year later than the company is now targeting.
Ever the master showman, Musk did leave open the option that those attending the Model 3 launch would see more than they bargained for. Musk said he wasn't sure "whether we should show all the cards or keep a few cards close to the vest," which could indicate another vehicle might be announced at the Model 3 event.