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Tesla will start Model 3 test drives in North American stores this month

The Model 3 production ramp is chugging along, with all production lines demonstrating the capability to produce 500 cars per day, according to CEO Elon Musk in today’s Tesla shareholder meeting.  So now that the supply of cars coming out of the factory isn’t so scarce, the next question is: when will stores get them?

There have been some display models in stores for months now, but if customers wanted a way to drive a car, they had to know an owner or rent a car through Turo.  It looks like that situation is finally going to be remedied, with Musk confirming during the shareholder meeting that test drives will be available in the coming month or two.

Specifically, it was announced that the first test drives will be available in stores at “the end of this month,” but that these would roll out to “almost all stores in North America by the end of next month.”

A few days ago, Musk mentioned that Model 3 test drives would be available within 4-6 weeks, with focus on the performance version:

Given that test drives are meant to start at “the end of this month” and performance version deliveries start next month, it seems unlikely that all test drive cars will be performance model cars – particularly since Tesla tends to deliver cars to early customers first before offering test drives.  There was no mention today of the plan to start test drives with the performance version, so there may be a mixture of cars available – some performance, some Long Range model cars.

Electrek’s Take

It has been Tesla practice in the past to deliver cars to early owners before putting cars in stores for test drives, so this time is no different in that respect.  In the past, though, Tesla has limited test drives to reservation holders, at least early on.  So in the first few weeks or months of having cars in stores, it’s possible that the general public will still have to wait to schedule a test drive, behind those who put money down in advance for a spot in line.

It was reported earlier this week that a significant amount of Model 3 reservations have been refunded, with some outlets suggesting this spells doom for the car.  However, other Tesla models have had similar numbers of reservations fall through, as consumers’ buying decisions tend to change over the course of several years.

Some could have been cancelled to get a Bolt or Leaf, some because of early model quality concerns and they want to let things shake out for a year or two, some because of financial need of the $1k deposit, some because of concerns with previous vehicle lease ends, and some might have ordered a Model S instead.  Even with those refunds, there are still hundreds of thousands of people in line to purchase this car.

But another factor in all of this is that most of those reservation holders have not driven the car, and most car buyers want to drive a car before purchasing it.  The early devotees will go through with an order sight-unseen, but the general public wants to know what they’re getting.  Not being able to get a test drive may result in some waning enthusiasm for the vehicle they’ve waited so long for.

And when test drives become available to the general public, I think that number will only get bigger.  As I mentioned in our Model 3 review, the greatest strength of this car is its handling.  It just feels so good to drive.

The reviews I’ve seen have been pretty much unanimous about the car in this respect – no matter how many negatives the reviewer tries to find (as is the job of a reviewer), pretty much everyone has been extremely positive on the handling and drive experience.  I’ve experienced the same in my discussions with owners, and others who I’ve let take my car for a spin.

So expect even more enthusiasm in this vehicle, which is already the top-seller in its segment in the US, in the coming month as people get some firsthand experience behind the wheel.

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Avatar for Jameson Dow Jameson Dow

Jameson has been driving electric vehicles since 2009, and has been writing about them and about clean energy for since 2016.

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