Why Did 63,000 People Cancel Their Tesla Model 3 Preorders?

By Andrew Daniels

Let’s just get this out of the way: Tesla’s hotly anticipated Model 3 car, the first handful of which started showing up in driveways over the weekend, is a big fucking deal. It’s the automaker’s first entry-level, mass-market luxury sedan, and potentially the first electric car to break through the mainstream once and for all (and not make you feel like a total dork while you’re driving). We hardly knew ye, Nissan Leaf.

Tesla founder Elon Musk officially unveiled the Model 3 in the spring of 2016 and slapped a relatively affordable $35,000 price tag on it. Predictably, after just one day of opening reservations, Tesla had 180,000 advanced orders on the books, generating a cool $7.5 billion in 24 hours—but it wasn’t just the cheaper cost that piqued drivers’ interests.

The Model 3 has loads of appealing perks, namely the ability to go 0-60 mph in 5.3 seconds and the stamina to travel 215 miles on a single charge. And, as we wrote at the time, the Model 3 doesn’t fall victim to the problem that plagues other electric cars: great engineering, lousy design. It has a slick, but subtle silhouette that gives “an air of sportiness and a proportionality that makes you think everything is in the right place … the equivalent of going from those crappy MP3 players of the early aughts to the iPod.”

Early reviews of the ride have indeed been rapturous, with Motor Trend calling the Model 3 “the most important vehicle of the century.” As Nicholas Cage would say, that’s high praise. Which brings us to the multi-million-dollar question: Why did 63,000 people cancel their preorders over the last year?

Musk revealed that stat during Tesla’s quarterly earnings call yesterday, saying that the total number of preorders dipped from about 518,000 to 455,000. Not that the drop spooked him. “I think [these numbers] are inconsequential,” Musk said on the call, per Recode. “With a small amount of effort we can easily drive the Model 3 reservation number to something much higher, but there’s no point.”

And then, because this is Elon Musk we’re talking about, he employed a somewhat nebulous fast-food analogy. “It’s like if you’re a restaurant and you’re serving hamburgers and there’s like an hour and a half wait for hamburgers, do you really want to encourage more people to order more hamburgers?”

Beef patties aside, it’s important to note that the cancellations took place over the course of a year, and not in one fell swoop. Some theorize that Tesla fans cut bait with Musk after learning of his ties to Donald Trump earlier this year, though the billionaire has since quit two of the President’s business advisory councils in the wake of [Trump pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement.

We may not have a concrete answer for the cancellations, but despite them, Tesla will be just fine. The company plans on manufacturing 5,000 Model 3s a week for the rest of the year, with hopes of hitting 10,000 a week in 2018.