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Tesla Motors, Inc. Reveals New Details on Model 3 Reservation Numbers

By Daniel Sparks - May 19, 2016 at 10:02AM

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Model 3 reservations details highlight strong demand and a low cancellation rate, despite little marketing of the electric vehicle since the week following its unveiling.

The most interesting information in electric-car maker Tesla Motors (TSLA -5.00%) SEC filing yesterday arguably wasn't the specifics of its equity offering, but rather new details it revealed on Model 3's deposit-backed reservations.

Model 3. Image source: Tesla Motors.

Model 3 reservations and cancellations

Alongside announcing a $1.4 to $1.7 billion equity offering to raise capital for its accelerated production plan, Tesla gave investors the most recent number on Model 3 reservations. As of Sunday, May 15, it held Model 3 deposits from about 373,000 customers.

As Tesla explained in the filing, this is an impressive level when put into context with the small effort the company is making to drive this metric:

We have obtained this level of reservations without any advertising or paid endorsements, with only a few social media posts leading up to the March 31st unveiling, without anybody but those who were in attendance on March 31st having had an opportunity to test drive the car, without yet publicly disclosing numerous features about the car, and with almost no attempt to drive customers to make Model 3 reservations since the week following the March 31st unveiling. If we wanted to, we believe that we could further increase the number of Model 3 reservations with minimal effort, but believe it is better to guide customers to purchase products currently in production.

Tesla also shared some details on cancellations, noting its 373,000 reservations was net of about 8,000 customer cancellations and 4,200 reservations Tesla chose to cancel "on the belief that they could have been duplicates from speculators."

Tesla's reference to 4,200 reservations it chose to cancel on its own behalf likely includes a reference Tesla CEO Elon Musk made on Twitter to reservations made by speculators who found a workaround to reserve more than the max of two Model 3s the company was allowing.

Beyond this filing, Tesla has also recently shared a few interesting facts about reservations in some other areas, including on Twitter, in the company's shareholder letter, and on its most recent quarterly earnings call:

  • Just 5% of customers making reservations opted to reserve two Model 3s, suggesting the number of reservations made for the purpose of speculation is likely relatively low.
  • 93% of Model 3 reservation holders have never had any interaction with the company.
  • Conversely, this means about 7% of reservation holders are Tesla owners, highlighting the loyalty of the company's existing customer base.

Reservations are driving management decisions

The optimistic market response to Tesla's Model 3 unveiling on March 31 is the main reason the company is accelerating its production plans and raising additional capital to support this accelerated roadmap.

Tesla factory in Fremont, California. Image source: Tesla Motors.

"Because of the significant demand that we have seen, we have decided to advance our 500,000 total vehicle build plan (combined for Model S, Model X, and Model 3) to 2018, two years earlier than previously planned," Tesla management said in Wednesday's SEC filing.

With a starting price of $35,000, the Model 3 is Tesla's most affordable vehicle yet; it starts at about half the price of the Model S. Details about the company's reservations suggest the lower price point is resonating with a much larger potential customer base than its Model S and Model X. This year, Tesla hopes to deliver between 80,000 to 90,000 Model S and Model X vehicles combined -- far lower than the 500,0000 vehicles Tesla hopes to produce in 2018 with the help of Model 3.

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