Deliveries of Tesla's long-awaited Model S sedan, its first foray into the mass market, begin today at a former General Motors-Toyota joint venture plant in California.
A select group of consumers will take delivery at the former NUMMI plant in Fremont, California, which Tesla acquired a couple of years ago after a partnership between GM and Toyota dissolved.
Tesla's entire future lies on the Model S' success, analysts say. The California-based EV startup has lost nearly $1 billion over the last few years by selling megabuck EV sports cars to high profile buyers in a bid to boost its image. Now, Tesla is turning closer to the mainstream market with the $49,900 Model S. While the sedan isn't exactly a people's car with its list price nearly double that of the average new car, its five and seven-passenger design puts it in line with far more buyers' needs than the company's Roadster did.
Tesla got a boost earlier this week when a Goldman Sachs analyst recommended that investors buy shares in the automaker ahead of today's delivery start. That analyst, Patrick Archambault, increased his six-month pace target from $36 to $50, backed up by a "Buy" rating. The company's stock shot up about $2 on Wednesday but has since leveled off around $32. Regardless, that's nearly double its $17 initial public offering in 2010, which makes Tesla even more unusual in the world of automakers.
But will the flurry of excitement translate into deliveries for Tesla? Not all industry analysts are quite as bullish as Goldman Sachs.
Citing relatively tepid demand for the much less expensive Nissan Leaf, IHS Automotive's Rebecca Lindland told the Associated Press that she doubts Tesla will be able to meet its goal of selling 20,000 Model S sedans next year. Nissan has delivered fewer than 30,000 Leafs in about 18 months and its list price is around half that of the Model S.
Tesla, however, has received 10,000 orders for the Model S and it remains confident that a number of marketing events this summer will boost its profile among consumers.
Update Tesla says that the first delivery will kick off at 3:30 PST today (6:30 EST). The automaker will live stream the delivery on its website.