According to a report by Reuters based on sources in Tesla’s supply chain, the automaker plans to start a pilot production of the Model 3 on February 20.

Tesla refused to comment on the report, which comes as the company confirmed to Electrek that it plans to temporarily shut down the Fremont factory around the same time in order to retool some equipment for the Model 3.

From Reuters’ report:

“Tesla has told suppliers it planned to begin test-building its Model 3 sedans on Feb. 20, according to people familiar with the matter, a move that could allay concerns about the company meeting its target to start production in July.

The sources did not know how many of the highly anticipated vehicles Tesla aimed to build in February, but it would likely be a small number to test the assembly system and the quality of vehicle parts”

It’s important to note that Tesla didn’t actually say that it plans to “start production in July”, but that it is a deadline for external and internal parts. More validation and preparation for the assembly could be needed before production can start, which is why Tesla has been guiding “the second half of the year”.

The timing is certainly interesting since it comes just before Tesla’s fourth quarter and full year 2016 earnings report on the 22nd.

Though Reuters makes it sound like a pre-production of the Model 3, if true, it is more likely the production of a beta prototype fleet.

As we reported yesterday, Tesla is planning a retooling of the factory in preparation for the Model 3 during the factory shutdown at the end of the month and we uncovered several construction permits supporting that.

Therefore, I wouldn’t take the claims in the report as an indication that Tesla could have the ability to run production-intent Model 3 on its assembly line, but that the program is moving forward with validation of more parts and processes for the production of the Model 3.

Either way, we should know more after Tesla’s earnings at the end of the month.

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