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Chinese fans line up for Tesla’s Model 3

American electric vehicle maker Tesla will launch its Model 3 today. Chinese consumers were lined up to pre-order the car at Tesla experience centers on Thursday morning as early as 8:30am, Chinese media reported.

The Model 3 launch conference will be streamed on Tesla’s official site starting at 11:30am Friday morning, China time. Online pre-orders for China will start on its site after the conference.

The Tesla Model 3, priced at USD 35,000, will be the company’s cheapest model. The Model 3 has a smaller battery volume and is 20% smaller than the Model S. It’s about the size of an Audi A4. This electric vehicle (EV) can go 300 miles on a single charge.

Despite being able to make pre-orders today, Chinese consumers will not get the Model 3 until 2017, Tesla’s planned delivery time. As Tesla has a record for postponing delivery, some fear that the earliest time Chinese consumers will be able to get their hands on the Model 3 will be 2018.

Tesla fans line up outside a Tesla store in Beijing. Photo from Tesla Weibo

The general manager of Tesla China, Zhu Xiaotong, said last Saturday that China has become the second largest market for the Silicon Valley-based 2003-founded company, reported the National Business Daily website. At March 2016, Tesla’s sales in China had seen a 400% YoY increase.

Zhu also said that the prices of some Tesla models will be raised by RMB 50,000 (USD 7,740) to RMB 70,000 this Friday, due to fluctuations in the exchange rate.

Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla and a regular visitor to China, said in Beijing last October that the company sold 3,025 cars in China for the first three quarters of 2015. For the full year 2015, globally Tesla delivered 50,580 vehicles in total.

CNN Money quoted Musk as saying “I think there is an understanding by the Chinese government that [electric vehicles] are important to the future. In order to have clean air in cities, you have to go electric.”

Wanbin Zhang contributed to this story. 

(Top photo from zhuangshi.hui-chao.com)

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