Will We See a Tesla Model E By 2018?

Tesla Motors has taken the automotive world by storm over the past year, with much positive news, but there has been a bit of wiggle room built in to its plans as the Fremont, Calif. based automaker finds its way.

Under the to-be-determined file, this month Tesla registered the name “Model E” with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office, and – connecting the dots – Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk was previously reported as saying Tesla would launch a mass-market electric car as soon as 2016, but now says that is not definite.

“Certainly, within five years we’ll have our mass-market electric car available,” Musk told Bloomberg in an interview posted yesterday by Automotive News. “We’ll start seeing hundreds of thousands of electric cars going to market every year.”

Five years from now would put the new car estimated to cost around $35,000 two years later into a 2018 launch window.

Also not clear is whether it will be called the Model E, as this was not confirmed by Tesla spokesperson, Shanna Hendriks, when asked.

Meanwhile Tesla is looking at broadening its manufacturing capability with new factories in Europe and Asia, but this too is in flux.

Tesla says its Fremont factory actually has capability to expand to 500,000 cars per year – far more than the 21,000 Model S sedans expected to be sold this year, and a doubling of that number projected by the company for next year along with a start of Model X production.

Musk told Bloomberg the idea for future new plants would be to reduce its cost and time for transporting its yet-un-named mainstream model.

“We’ll try to locate those close to where people are, close to where the customers are, to minimize the logistics costs of getting the car to them,” Musk said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “I think long term you can see Tesla establishing factories in Europe, in other parts of the U.S. and in Asia.”

Musk however did not elaborate on specifically where or when its future factories would be built.

Previously he has said Tesla was considering Texas, but this was when Musk was still holding out hope Texas would amend its laws to allow it to sell via its factory direct stores. Texas has since held the line against Tesla, and Tesla is barred from most of its sales and service operations it would otherwise wish to do in this state market.

Bloomberg did note Tesla opened a small facility in Tilburg, Netherlands. Here Tesla is actually assembling components shipped from California for Model S sedans it has begun selling in Europe.

Whether another plant is established in California is also in question. Musk said due to high costs in that state, it could be prohibitive.

“The real tough question is, beyond this plant, would we establish another plant in California?” Musk said in July. “That’s where it gets really tricky. What I can say is we do want to ultimately bring this plant to its original production capacity of half a million vehicles a year.”

Tesla’s Fremont factory was actually purchased by Tesla in 2010 in the wake of General Motors’ bankruptcy, and thus the large potential capacity, and affordability for the aspiring automaker.

It had originally been opened in the 1960s and became known as the NUMMI plant, a joint venture between GM and Toyota.

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