Tesla Top 5 Week in Review: Model 3, Gigafactory, a brush with the law, and more

The Tesla Model 3 was big news again this week, as Tesla announced a February date for pilot production. Also, no longer will occupied Supercharger stations be so stress-inspiring, as Tesla has an onboard map update that shows Supercharger location availability. With news of a proposed federal import tax a topic of serious discussion, Tesla seemed on the winning side, with its prominent domestic manufacturing. The Gigafactory construction costs rose above $1 billion this week as noted through permits that Tesla filed. And a story emerged in which another Model S driver was detained by police who investigated reports of an abduction, only to quickly ascertain that rear-facing seats were the real culprit. Here are those stories in review.

Tesla to begin pilot production of Model 3 on February 20

Red Tesla Model 3 at the vehicle unveiling event on March 31, 2016 from the company’s Hawthorne, CA Design Center.

As the more affordable all-electric vehicle in the Tesla catalog, the announcement of Model 3 pilot production staring on February 20 brought smiles to a lot of faces. The Model 3 will have a base price of $35,000, and that’s before government tax incentives. The appealing Model 3 price point is just a start: it will offer a range of at least 215 miles. The Model 3 pilot production creates a vehicle that is targeted for demonstration and evaluation, as pilot manufacturing is used to calibrate the assembly line, assess the car against design standards, and confirm quality of outside suppliers’ components. Some Model 3 pilot vehicles will be destined for safety crash tests, while others will generate media visibility. Importantly, strong demand for the Model 3 will push Tesla’s production capabilities, already exceeding 373,000 pre-orders.

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Tesla unlocks real-time Supercharger occupancy data on vehicle map

Any Tesla owner will attest to the frustration that happens when you pull up to a Supercharger stall and find that it’s occupied. Knowing what’s happening at Superchargers ahead is newly improved. Tesla owners can now see Supercharger stall availability at a particular moment in time. Owners have already begun to report that data has appeared via the map app in the form of little bars over Supercharger stations that display availability. This is a very important component of Tesla’s overall goal to reduce range anxiety for its customers and to provide the smoothest and easiest vehicle experience of any currently available on the market.

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Tesla on the winning end of proposed U.S. import tax

A new study suggests that Tesla would be well-positioned if a proposed federal tax on imports is implemented. Baum & Associates LLC determined that most automakers would need to add thousands of dollars to vehicle sticker prices to compensate for costs incurred with the import tax. Jaguar’s Land Rover would experience the worst case scenario with price increases near to $17,000, as it imports all its vehicles. Companies with significant domestic manufacturing would absorb only the smallest price increases among major automakers, with Ford accruing about $282 per vehicle and General Motors Co. at about $995. With its extensive domestic manufacturing, Tesla is the sole automaker that may be able to keep prices level. The study’s goals were to expose the relative impact of the tax plan on each automaker, according to Alan Baum, founder of Michigan’s Baum & Associates.

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Tesla Gigafactory surpasses $1 billion in construction costs: Section D/E addendum filed

Tesla, Inc. has been granted a total of 153 building permits for its Gigafactory to date from the Storey County Community Development Department. In sum, the permits correlate with an estimated $1.03 billion in construction costs. Storey County remitted these permits after receiving $5.58 million in fees from Tesla. Twenty-nine permits are mentioned in an addendum, which total $542.65 million of construction work. Many of the other permits relate to the installation and anchoring of the equipment needed for the factory. Other permits include a nitrogen yard, a thermal energy storage tank, and the Panasonic equipment installed in Section B and C. In addition, the installation and expansion of the contractor accommodation indicated the number of construction workers on site has increased.

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Tesla Model S rear-facing child seats lead to false kidnapping report

Tesla Model S owners who have opted for additional, rear-facing seats are aware that their size and location offers a fun and efficient place for youngsters to sit. The Sheriff’s Department in Newhall, California, who responded to reports of an abduction, didn’t have this same background knowledge about the Tesla Model S. It turns out that “it was not a kidnapping,” according to Lt. Rob Hahnlein, who spoke on behalf of the Sheriff’s Deparment, but, rather, an individual assisting a child into a Tesla. “The new Teslas have a weird back seat,” Hahnlein acknowledged, “and when they put the (child) in the back seat it looked like they were putting them in the trunk.” The Sheriff’s Department noted how they are obliged to investigate every kidnapping report until the situation is resolved. They also detained the Tesla driver at gun point with the child observing from the seats in question.

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