276,000 Tesla Model 3 order deposits booked so far, Elon Musk says

Tesla Motors' CEO says worldwide orders for a new lower-priced electric car hit more than a quarter of a million over the weekend, which could translate to almost $10 billion worth of sales for the vehicle.
The Tesla Model 3 electric car was unveiled in Hawthorne, California Thursday night. (Tesla Motors Canada)

Tesla Motors' CEO says worldwide orders for a new lower-priced electric car hit 276,000 during the weekend.

CEO Elon Musk posted the number Sunday on his Twitter feed. He says if the trend continues orders will hit 500,000.

Tesla's new Model 3 starts at $35,000 and has a range of almost 350 kilometres per charge. Customers must put down $1,000 to order the cars, which go on sale in late 2017. The company started taking orders early Thursday before Musk unveiled the new car.

Musk says in tweets that the company is focusing on ramping up production and eventually will need to build a factory in Europe to satisfy demand.

He says the car will be rear-wheel-drive with optional all-wheel-drive, and its steering controls will feel like a spaceship.

The large number of orders makes it likely that many won't get a $7,500 U.S. electric car tax credit. The credit phases out when a manufacturer hits 200,000 in U.S. sales. Tesla won't say how many of the orders came from the U.S., but Musk says in tweets that a production ramp-up should let large numbers of Model 3 customers get the tax credit.

Tesla plans to have a presence in India before Model 3 production starts, and its high-speed charging system and service will cover all of Italy later this year, Musk says.

The Model 3 is less than half the cost of Tesla's previous models, and its range is about double what drivers get from current competitors in its price range, such as the Nissan Leaf and BMW i3. It also faces competition from General Motors, which is set to start selling the Chevrolet Bolt electric car at the end of this year with a similar price tag and a 200-mile range.