Watch the Tesla Gigafactory spring up during its extensive construction process. (Provided by Tesla Motors)
Tesla will begin production of its first mass-market electric vehicle this month, CEO Elon Musk said, meeting an ambitious goal that was widely questioned in the auto industry.
The Silicon Valley tech company will make its first production model of the Model 3 electric car on Friday, Musk said on Twitter.
The company will manufacture about 100 units of the compact sedan in August and more than 1,500 by September. It "looks like we can reach" 20,000 in December, Musk said.
A slow ramp-up in production capacity is typical procedure in the auto industry as factory workers learn new assembly tasks, install new equipment and ensure quality.
For more than a year, Tesla had targeted summer 2017 for the launch of the Model 3, which carries a base price of $35,000 before tax credits. The car gets 215 miles of range on a battery charge.
Achieving the goal for the beginning of production is likely to be viewed as a reflection of Tesla's growing capability as a manufacturer. The company has missed many such targets in the past, and some analysts believed production wouldn't start until 2018.
Still, Tesla's long-term ability to keep up with demand remains in question. Orders placed today on the Model 3 won't be fulfilled until mid-2018 "or later," Tesla says. That's in part because the company has already received several hundred thousand refundable deposits for the vehicle.
Meanwhile, rival automakers are lining up competitors. General Motors is already selling the Chevrolet Bolt electric car at a similar price with better range.
Tesla continues to sell the Model S sedan and Model X crossover, both luxury models that can cost more than $100,000.
The consensus projection among analysts is that Tesla sold 24,200 vehicles in the second quarter, according to Evercore ISI. The company does not report monthly sales, unlike the rest of the industry.
Tesla will celebrate the Model 3's introduction by holding a "handover party" for the first 30 Model 3 buyers on July 28, Musk said.
Reno-area media got a tour of the massive building in 2016. Brian Duggan, Jason Bean/RGJ