Tesla began taking Model 3 reservations in stores on March 31, and the early returns from Australia suggested high turnouts were the norm. In the automaker’s store in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City, the line was very manageable when we passed through around noon. In fact, just two hours after the doors had opened, Model 3 reservations could be had within 45 minutes of joining the line.
By that point, we estimate several hundred people had put down the $1,000 deposit necessary to reserve the first mass-market Tesla at this location. A driver’s license and a credit card are all it takes to get on the Model 3 waiting list, which gave rise to speculation that the demand would be high across the country. New York City, not exactly the electric vehicle (or car) capital of the world, seemed only moderately engaged a few hours into the process.
From the Tesla employees we chatted with, we learned the line had wrapped around 25th Street at one point in the opening hours before trimming down to about 35 people waiting outside by noon. (About 10 people fit in the line inside the store.) The process took under five minutes and involved a sales representative taking down basic information and scanning a credit card on his tablet. By the time we left, shortly before 1 p.m., only five people were lined up outside.
While the turnout in Manhattan was underwhelming, Bloomberg reported hundreds queueing up in lines around the world to put down a deposit, with some people camping out overnight in Tesla’s new Red Hook, Brooklyn, location. [Update: Tesla announced over 130,000 reservations by the time of the Model 3 reveal.] The mobilization for a car not yet seen was astounding.
By the time New York City’s Tesla store began accepting deposits, the Model 3 reveal was more than 12 hours away. (Live streaming began March 31 at 8:30 p.m. Pacific time.) Buyers had come to get on the waiting list for a car thought to be a compromise on some level when compared to the highly regarded and heavily awarded Model S. For those priced out by the Teslas on the market now, it was a chance to join the club.
One person we spoke to in line was a Model S 85 kWh owner who bought his EV before the all-wheel drive options arrived. He said he was putting down a deposit while he decided whether he would upgrade to the 85D or switch over to the Model 3. Several other people in line debated whether the $7,500 tax credit would be available by the time the first deliveries were made.
We already know the most loaded Model 3s will have priority. According to Stephen Edelstein of Green Car Reports, Tesla Model S owners get pole position, followed by people who live on the West Coast. Maybe some New Yorkers were turned off by the potential waiting game? They may have missed out on something special: Elon Musk tweeted that those who stood in line Thursday would get a “token of appreciation” from the automaker.