Elon Musk reveled this weekend in the tidal wave of preorders Tesla Motors received for the company’s first affordable car, the Model 3, which debuted March 31.
By Saturday night, the electric automaker pulled in an eye-popping 276,000 orders for the $35,000 vehicle, each with a $1,000 deposit, the billionaire chief executive said on Twitter. That’s more than double what the company expected.
Even two of electric carmaker’s keenest observers — one an early investor, the other a high-ranking analyst fixated on the future of transportation — were wowed by the numbers.
“We were all surprised to sell a quarter of a million cars in two days,” DBL Partners Managing Director Nancy Pfund, whose venture firm invested in Tesla a decade ago, told The Huffington Post at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance Summit in New York on Monday. “The pent-up demand is something that surprised me. I knew it was big, but I had no idea how much of a market we were tapping into with the Model 3.”
When she first invested in the electric automaker 10 years ago, the company’s only offering was the super-fast, super-expensive Roadster, and electric cars in general seemed dead-on-arrival.
“People were telling us Tesla is for rich people,” Pfund said. “I mean, we didn’t sit around a conference table 10 years ago and say, ‘Let’s make a car for the wealthy.’ It’s like the early cellphone or iPhone, these things are expensive at first.”
The reaction to the Model 3 could ripple throughout the auto industry.
“That legitimately surprised us,” Colin McKerracher, the lead advanced transportation analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, told HuffPost in an interview. “I don’t think you want to ignore that. I don’t think you want to say that’s just a flash in the pan.”
Rather, McKerracher said traditional automakers are now scrambling to develop competitors to Tesla’s roster of sleek, well-designed electric vehicles.
“I wouldn’t underestimate Tesla’s ability to pull other automakers along,” he said.
One big difference is that the Nissan LEAF and Chevrolet’s Bolt and Volt — the Model 3’s chief rivals — simply haven’t had the same hype as a Tesla.
“If you build a badass product, people will buy it on its own merits,” Salim Morsy, senior analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, told HuffPost.
But people need to know about it, he added.
“For the Bolt, Volt and Leaf, the marketing was abysmal,” Morsy said.
Musk is nothing if not a good hype man.