Tesla Model 3: confusion over reservation numbers spur unfounded fear of decline, Tesla reaffirms 373,000

Tesla Model 3 silver prototype promo shot headlands

A little controversy is brewing this afternoon regarding the number of reservations Tesla has received for the Model 3. Tesla’s management, including CEO Elon Musk, were the first to be surprised by the number of reservations received for the automaker’s upcoming $35,000 all-electric sedan.

Reservations reached 232,000 within 24 hours of the unveiling, then 325,000 within the first week. The last official update came two months later in May when Tesla confirmed having 373,000 reservations in a SEC filing after a few cancellations (likely due to wait time/subsidy loss) and duplicate removals.

The company hasn’t officially updated the number since the SEC filing, but now some confusion over comments made by Tesla’s management, along with media reports, are leading people to incorrectly believe that Model 3 reservation numbers actually declined over the past few months.

Earlier this week, Tesla held a media event for the opening of its Gigafactory in Nevada. The weekend before the event, the company gave exclusive access to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

In its article published Sunday, the NYTimes originally stated that Tesla had 315,000 reservations with deposits for the Model 3. This figure was published after interviews with Elon Musk and Tesla CTO, JB Straubel, but each publication quickly issued corrections referencing May’s 373,000 reservation milestone.

Some readers pointed us to the published 315,000 figure, but we didn’t bother to look into it because of the NYT’s quick correction. Yet, today another mention of a figure lower than 373,000 is adding to the confusion.

This time, it comes directly from the mouth of JB Straubel:

A German radio show played a recording of an interview with Straubel during the Gigafactory event. In it, you can clearly discern the executive saying that Tesla has “over 325,000 reservations” for the Model 3 at the 1:46 mark.

Update: As a reader points out in the comment section below, while the radio show makes it sound like the interview is from this week’s Gigafactory events, it’s actually from NPR in April, which explains why JB is using the 325,000 figure.

While the number coincides with what the company disclosed after a week of reservations, it is far less (50,000) than what Tesla confirmed in May. It could be a simple mistake, but the changing figures continue to spur confusion over the tally of pre-orders.

However, we just talked to a Tesla spokesperson who corrected the number – it is still at 373,000.

As we previously reported, Tesla has been trying to tap into its new customer base of Model 3 reservations holders by releasing less expensive versions of the Model S and X with a software-limited 60 kWh battery pack.

The company began contacting Model 3 reservation holders by email and phone to suggest the new vehicles. While its efforts may have convinced a few to make the jump it is unlikely to be material to Tesla’s stated 373,000 number.

Tesla will likely update the number along with the disclosure of its second quarter earnings next week, or perhaps even at the Gigafactory Grand Opening event tonight.

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