SAN FRANCISCO -- Tesla investors and customers got some much-anticipated news on the Model 3 timeline when CEO Elon Musk announced that the mission-critical model has passed all its U.S. regulatory requirements for production two weeks ahead of schedule.
The company will hold a handover party for its first 30 customers of the Model 3 on July 28, Musk wrote in a Twitter post.
The Model 3, the company's most affordable car yet, had been expected to begin production in July, but there had been little news on how the preparations at Tesla's factory in Fremont, California, were progressing.
When a Twitter follower of the CEO asked him last week to "please have mercy" and give more information on the release, Musk responded cryptically that he would offer "news on Sunday."
Investors have pushed up Tesla shares 69 percent this year in anticipation of the Model 3. The Palo Alto, California-based company delivered 25,051 vehicles in the first quarter and aims to make 500,000 in 2018 and 1 million in 2020.
The company now makes two all-electric models: The Model S sedan and Model X SUV. The Model 3, which is slated to start at $35,000 before options or incentives, is the culmination of Tesla's 15-year-quest to reach mainstream consumers with a smaller, more affordable electric car.
Tesla first unveiled the Model 3 in March 2016 at a late-night party at the company's design studio in Hawthorne, California. The company reported last spring that 373,000 people have placed $1,000 deposits for the vehicle and hasn't given an updated reservation figure in the year since. Model 3 reservations "skew young and urban," Jon McNeill, Tesla's president of global sales and service, said last year.