Tesla will introduce a driveable prototype of the Model 3—the electric vehicle made for the masses—at a March 31 unveiling event. But the event will be down one key executive, Ricardo Reyes, who held the top communications job at the electric automaker and worked closely with CEO Elon Musk.
In an email to press, Tesla asks reporters to join in celebrating the milestone, adding at the end: "And of course, to take a quick spin in what we’ve been working on." Tesla describes the unveiling, which will be held at its design studio in Hawthorne, Calif., as an intimate event.
A separate invitation sent to current Tesla owners provides a glimpse (sort of) of a covered car that is presumably the Model 3. Tesla owners are invited to sign up for a lottery that will determine who gets to attend the event. Tesla says in the invitation that it has "saved 650 places at the event for current owners including their guests." The lottery will be held March 16.
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An automaker introducing a working model at an unveiling shouldn't be news. But there's been speculation, based on a previous comment by CEO Elon Musk, that the company would only showcase pictures, and not an actual working car.
Plus, this is Tesla—its mission has always been to introduce a mass-market electric vehicle. It's why the company is building a massive $5 billion battery factory in Nevada that will have the capacity to produce 50 gigawatt hours of battery packs a year. By the end of 2017, the facility is expected to reduce the per-kilowatt-hour cost of its lithium-ion battery packs by more than 30%.
That improvement in battery performance translates into a car that is cheaper buy too. The Model 3 is expected to cost $35,000 before tax incentives compared to the Tesla Model S sedan, which starts at about $70,000 for the base model.
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The Model 3 and gigafactory have a symbiotic relationship. Tesla’s ability to produce an affordable electric car for the masses hinges almost entirely on its gigafactory project. And that $5 billion investment will only pay off if the Model 3 is a success.
In other words, the Model 3 is a big deal. It's why so many people—shareholders, rivals, skeptics, and fans alike—are watching and analyzing every step, move, and staffing mystery that Tesla makes, leading up to the March 31 event and the car's eventual 2017 release.
Tesla confirmed Reyes left the company without providing further information. Reyes, whose departure was first reported by Bloomberg, joined the company in 2009 before leaving in 2012 to head up brand marketing and communications for Square. He returned to Tesla in 2014 after a bout of employee turnover in the company's communications department, including the departure of its leader Simon Sproule, who left to join automaker Aston Martin.