Tesla Inc. has kept several hundred thousand would-be buyers waiting to see a car they started paying $1,000 deposits for 20 months ago. The chance to finally get up close to a Model 3 sedan can be had now for another $15.
The automaker led by Elon Musk has a locked-up red Model 3 sedan on display at the Los Angeles Auto Show that opens to the public Friday. While the doors will stay sealed shut, even up-close looks at the exterior have been hard to come by. Tesla has restricted initial deliveries to its own employees, and Musk’s struggles getting mass production up and running has kept the car out of the hands of customers.
Tesla has historically shied away from auto shows, which are costly to participate in and are typically run by associations of dealers who aren’t fans of Tesla’s direct-sales model. But California is the electric automaker’s home turf, and the L.A. show will be a long-awaited opportunity for potential buyers and even some investors to pore over the car that’s critical to Tesla reaching more mainstream consumers for the first time.
More from FORTUNE
“I have a team of people scouring for Model 3s all over Los Angeles, and I’ve personally seen only two,” said Ross Gerber, chief executive officer of Gerber Kawasaki Wealth & Investment Management in Santa Monica, which holds Tesla shares. He’s placed a deposit for a Model 3 and said he plans to visit the show for a better look.
Four months after Musk held an event to mark the start of Model 3 production, few have gotten their hands on the vehicle, with the exception of Tesla workers and close friends of the company. An initial set of reservation holders who aren’t on staff were invited last week to configure their cars.
Dan Zorrilla, 40, was one of the first non-employees to finalize his Model 3. The Tampa Bay, Florida, resident already owns a Model S, one of the factors that put him toward the front of the line. He and others were told their cars would be ready in about four weeks.
“I haven’t heard anything about my delivery date since I configured,” Zorrilla said. “I don’t really care if the Model 3 is late.”
Less patient reservation holders can attend the Los Angeles show to examine the Model 3, plus a Model X sport utility vehicle and a Model S sedan, as well as Tesla’s home energy products. The Semi truck and next-generation Roadster aren’t at the company’s booth.
While the Model 3’s presence at the show and Tesla’s invitations to configure cars hint that the company is making progress on production, investors remain anxious about how the ramp-up is going.
The Palo Alto, California-based company built just 260 Model 3 sedans in the third quarter, far short of its 1,500-unit forecast, and Tesla hasn’t said how many cars it expects to make it the last three months of the year. On Nov. 1, the company said it expected to reach a run-rate of 5,000 units per week in late March, a quarter later than projected earlier.
Tesla shares have dropped 9.6 percent since the company released Model 3 output figures on Oct. 2, trimming their gain for the year to 45 percent.
“It’s very hard to get accurate information about production,” Gerber said. “It’s a nerve wracking time.”