FREMONT, Calif. â If the gleaming Model 3 rolling out of the Tesla factory here Friday could ask its maker a question, this one would be apt.
“Will I be the next Ford Model T, the spark of a new transportation revolution, or the Ford Edsel, a misfire consigned to the annals of automotive history?”
Tesla CEO Elon Musk is sure of the answer.
âThe whole point of Tesla was to build a great affordable electric car,â Musk said at gathering of employees and a few dozen media for the rollout of the first Model 3 cars. âThatâs what this day means. Iâm confident itâll be the best car in its class, gasoline or not, hands down.â
Certainly a lot rides on the Model 3âs tires. Tesla has become a cultural touchstone on the back of its fast and expensive $69,500-and-up Model S and X electric sedans, but with the $35,000 Model 3 it hopes usher EVs into the mainstream while turbocharging its production numbers to calm investors.
Currently, Tesla produces around 100,000 vehicles per year, all Model S and X. Now with the Model 3, it hopes to ramp up to 500,000.
Teslaâs stock continues to soar despite questions about profitability, rocketing to $334 from $235 in the past 12 months. But some analysts arenât sure Model 3 can be Teslaâs savior.
âThe make-or-break part of this for Tesla isnât the production numbers, itâs the profitability and ownership experience issues,â says Karl Brauer, executive publisher at Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book.
âIf one or both are off, itâs big trouble,â he says. âItâs tough to be a company that specializes in EVs, as theyâre only 1% of market and most electric…