Mall at UTC

Tesla store at Mall at University Town Center sees more than 100 to reserve new Model 3

UNIVERSITY PARK -- If a car can have super fans, more than 100 of them gathered Thursday morning at The Mall at University Town Center to pay $1,000 each to reserve Tesla's newest electric car.

A queue of hopeful Tesla buyers started forming at 8 a.m. and snaked halfway up the north end of the mall. In line were scores of people amped to be among the first to buy Tesla's new Model 3 on its launch day. Expected to sell for about $35,000 when the first models roll off the assembly line in 2017, the car is the first from the electric vehicle company that's considered affordable.

Its current models are priced starting at about $70,000.

Nathan Dugan of Bradenton waited two hours to get into the Tesla showroom at the mall. He happily handed over his credit card to get on the list. The Tesla 3, he said, might be the beginning of the end for vehicles powered by fossil fuels because it is the first long-range electric vehicle priced for the middle class. It has been advertised as having a 200-mile range on a single charge.

"The Model 3 is the culmination of what the common man has been waiting for," Dugan said.

Dugan and the others who signed up to buy the car did so sight unseen. Tesla's founder and CEO, Elon Musk, was scheduled to unveil the car for the first time later in the day.

Nick Fields, another Bradenton resident who got his name on the list for the Tesla 3, said the lack of information about the car didn't bother him. He and his wife both drive electric cars and want to be among the first to buy into what he sees as the next stage in the evolution of the electric vehicle.

"It's kind of the wave of the future," Fields said.

He likened Musk, who co-founded PayPal and the private space agency SpaceX, to fictional Marvel Comics genius billionaire inventor Tony Stark. Musk's persona, he said, is a selling point for the Model 3.

The lineup was among the biggest the mall has seen since the Apple Store at The Mall at UTC was mobbed at the mall's opening in late 2014. Spokeswoman Kim Dominguez said mall management were expecting the Tesla crowd.

"We did anticipate 200 to 300 folks based on statistics Tesla has given us in the past," she said.

Future Tesla owners were allowed into the company's store just four at a time to allow sales staff to efficiently take reservations for the Tesla 3. According to Tesla's website, the deposits on the Model 3 are fully refundable should a buyer choose not to complete his or her order for the car.

Tesla builds its cars in California. As of the end of 2015, the company claims to have delivered more than 107,000 of its Model S luxury sedans to buyers worldwide. The company also produces an SUV, called the Model X.

Those reserving Model 3 vehicles Thursday were told they can expect delivery of the vehicles in late 2017. Part of the draw to be first in line Thursday was the lure of a $7,500 tax credit buyers can apply toward the price of the Model 3. That credit is given to the buyers of the first 200,000 electric cars a company sells. With Tesla having built more than half that amount, said Dugan, getting the credit depends on being near the front of the line.

Tesla sells all its vehicles through its retail stores. The UTC store is one of three in Florida and is among more than 40 in the United States.

Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027 or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton. "The Model 3 is the culmination of what the common man has been waiting for," Dugan said.

Dugan and the others who signed up to buy the car did so sight unseen. Tesla's founder and CEO, Elon Musk, was scheduled to unveil the car for the first time later in the day.

Nick Fields, another Bradenton resident who got his name on the list for the Tesla 3, said the lack of information about the car didn't bother him. He and his wife both drive electric cars and want to be among the first to buy into what he sees as the next stage in the evolution of the electric vehicle. "It's kind of the wave of the future," Fields said.

He likened Musk, who co-founded PayPal and the private space agency SpaceX, to fictional Marvel Comics genius billionaire inventor Tony Stark. Musk's persona, he said, is a selling point for the Model 3.

The lineup was among the biggest the mall has seen since the Apple Store at The Mall at UTC was mobbed at the mall's opening in late 2014. Spokeswoman Kim Dominguez said mall management were expecting the Tesla crowd.

"We did anticipate 200 to 300 folks based on statistics Tesla has given us in the past," she said.

Future Tesla owners were allowed into the company's store just four at a time to allow sales staff to efficiently take reservations for the Tesla 3. According to Tesla's website, the deposits on the Model 3 are fully refundable should a buyer choose not to complete his or her order for the car.

Tesla builds its cars in California. As of the end of 2015, the company claims to have delivered more than 107,000 of its Model S luxury sedans to buyers worldwide. The company also produces an SUV, called the Model X.

Those reserving Model 3 vehicles Thursday were told they can expect delivery of the vehicles in late 2017. Part of the draw to be first in line Thursday was the lure of a $7,500 tax credit buyers can apply toward the price of the Model 3. That credit is given to the buyers of the first 200,000 electric cars a company sells. With Tesla having built more than half that amount, said Dugan, getting the credit depends on being near the front of the line.

Tesla sells all its vehicles through its retail stores. The UTC store is one of three in Florida and is among more than 40 in the United States.

Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027 or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.

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