Tesla has told suppliers it planned to begin test-building its Model 3 sedans on Feb. 20, according to people familiar with the matter, a move that could allay concerns about the company meeting its target to start production in July.
The sources did not know how many of the highly anticipated vehicles Tesla aimed to build in February, but it would likely be a small number to test the assembly system and the quality of vehicle parts.
Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk last year told investors and more than 370,000 customers who put deposits down for a Model 3 that he intended to start building the cars in July 2017. At the time, many analysts and suppliers said the timeline was too ambitious and would be difficult to achieve, pointing to Tesla's history of missing aggressive production targets.
If Tesla succeeds in starting pilot production of the sedan at its factory in Fremont, California on Feb. 20, the company would be able to share the news with shareholders two days later when it reports fourth-quarter results and better answer any questions about the Model 3 rollout.
"What better way to stoke the fan base and Wall Street than to wheel out pre-production models" ahead of the earnings announcement, said one person familiar with Tesla's plans who spoke on condition of anonymity.
A spokesman for Tesla declined to comment on the company's production schedule, but said "our ramp-up in production moves as fast as the slowest and least lucky supplier."