A line to preorder the new $35,000 Tesla model stretched at least three blocks through Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood. The car was unveiled Thursday night in a webcast.
Aside from the glaring sun, it was perhaps a quintessential new-Seattle scene.
Hundreds of people lined the streets of South Lake Union, Seattle’s tech hub, waiting to put $1,000 down for a $35,000 gadget no one knew much about at the time.
At 8:30 a.m. Thursday, the line for Tesla’s new Model 3 stretched at least three blocks. Marketed as an affordable version of the state-of-the-art electric car, the vehicle features a 200-mile range on a single charge and a $35,000 price tag, before tax incentives.
Tesla Motors Chief Executive Elon Musk unveiled prototypes of his new creation, the Model 3, on Thursday night in front of about 800 people at the company’s Los Angeles design studio.
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Musk said the car will have several features of its more expensive sibling, the Model S. The four-door vehicle, for instance, will offer autopilot, which enables the vehicle to drive itself on the highways and other roads. Musk also claimed the car will be able to go from 0 to 60 mph in fewer than 6 seconds.
The car seats five adults and has two spaces for luggage in the front and back. It was also clear from the presentation that the $35,000 version would be a stripped-down version with very few options.
Musk said at the unveiling that the company had gotten at least 115,000 pre-orders by late Thursday.
Before the pre-orders, which started at 10 a.m. Thursday in Seattle, one man furiously pedaled in line on his electric bicycle, set on its kickstand, to replenish its charge. Others buried their heads in laptops and cellphones. Those at the front of the line lounged in camping chairs swaddled in blankets — they’d been there all night.
The crowd skewed mostly male and white.
A man named Mac Ward, who held a sign calling himself a yuppie, launched a self-aware and seemingly earnest begging campaign.
“I just got fired from Microsoft,” he shouted. “Help a white guy who’s down on his six-figure salary scrum master luck … A condo, a six-figure tech job and a Tesla — it’s the American dream!”
Ward said he’d collected only $1 Thursday morning, but planned to put money down on a car.
Some people in line said they viewed their efforts as something of a social movement.
Joel Moffitt, a Cascadia College design student who had been in line since 11 p.m. Wednesday, said he was waiting to “get in on something that has the power or opportunity to change the way we get around.”
“Everyone here is voting with their wallet. This is what they want to see on the market,” said Ken Roach, a private engineer.
Nancy Garing, of Kingston, took a car, ferry, bus, a light-rail train and a trolley to get to Tesla.
“I try to use public transportation when I can,” explained the 77-year-old, who got up at 4:45 a.m. to get into line about 7:30 a.m. She said she was excited to see an affordable Tesla and liked that it will be made in America.
“And I figured we had to get one of the first ones (in line), otherwise, we’ll be too old to drive it,” Garing said, noting the car won’t go into production for more than a year.
The first people in line, Loren and Robin West of Mukilteo, said they’d been waiting since 5:45 p.m. Wednesday, when Tesla employees closed up shop.
“As they left, they high-fived us,” Loren West said. “We’re the crazies.”
The two took turns overnight sleeping in a van they’d parked nearby. The couple planned to buy one Tesla each — his and hers.
Robin West said she was excited about “no more gasoline, no more oil changes … no more fossil fuels in the air.”
For Loren West, this was a turning point in history.
“There’s a lot of talk about everyone wanting to be green. This is proof. People want electric cars,” he said.
Information from The Associated Press and Washington Post was included in this report.