Tesla Inc pushed back the reveal of its semi truck by three weeks as Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk focuses on boosting production of the cheaper sedan that the electric-car maker is counting on to dramatically increase sales. Resources are being diverted to address the bottlenecks holding back the Model 3, Musk wrote in a tweet Friday. He’s also delaying the semi unveiling to November 16 because Tesla is prioritizing efforts to increase battery output for Puerto Rico, which has sought the company’s help to restore power following Hurricane Maria.
Tesla built only 260 Model 3 sedans during the third quarter, less than a fifth of its 1,500-unit forecast. The company has offered scant detail about the problems it’s having producing the mission-critical car that starts at $35,000, roughly half the cost of the least expensive Model S sedan. A delayed ramp up risks the ire of some of the almost half a million reservation holders who started paying $1,000 deposits early last year.
“We are deep in production hell,” Musk wrote Friday, in response to a tweet asking whether those on the Model 3 waiting list would get more information about their car. Tesla slipped 0.5 percent to $354.95 as of 5:35 pm in New York, after the close of regular trading. Optimism about the company’s efforts to mass produce Model 3s has contributed to the stock surging 67 percent this year. Initial Model 3 deliveries have been to Tesla employees, enabling the Palo Alto, California-based company to deal with a more forgiving audience in the event of any kinks with the first cars. Musk on Friday estimated that non-employee reservation holders will be able to design their sedan on Tesla’s website in six to eight weeks.
Musk posted earlier in the day that he would talk with Puerto Rico’s governor about supplying batteries to the territory that’s rebuilding after Maria, which left more than 90 percent of homes and businesses without electricity. Tesla said last week it was sending hundreds of its Powerwall systems, which can be paired with solar panels, to the island. Tesla representatives met with California and Nevada agencies this summer about testing an autonomous semi truck, fueling speculation the upcoming reveal will involve driverless technology. “Semi specs are better than anything I’ve seen reported so far,” Musk tweeted Friday. “Semi eng/design team work is aces, but other needs are greater right now.”