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Rebecca Zisser / Axios

Tesla will complete production of its very first Model 3 vehicle today. It won't be the only mass-market, all-electric, 200-mile sedan on the market — GM grabbed first-mover status in December, when it began selling its 238-mile Chevy Bolt. But the Model 3 will nonetheless be singular: Not only will the car be sleek and desirably cool, but it will be equipped with self-driving hardware — one more perk that has motivated 400,000 people to put down $1,000 apiece to reserve one.

All of which is to say that, of the dozens of electrics to reach the global market in the coming five or so years, the Model 3 probably stands the best chance of popularizing a new mass-market electric car age. Rappers are penning verses about no other electric.

A level deeper: Rarely has a piece of commercial transportation been so anticipated — perhaps the Concorde super-sonic airliner in the 1970s. And a big reason has been the long buildup: In 2006, Tesla CEO Elon Musk set out his "master plan" to single-handedly usher in an electric car industry. No one knows how many Model 3s Musk will eventually sell. But today, fearful that Tesla will render them like once-powerful Nokia — sad industrial relics — virtually every major carmaker in the world plans to field multiple electric cars in case the Model 3 is a viral success.

Musk plans to actually deliver his first cars to customers starting July 28, and to begin a slow buildup of production until he is making 500,000 cars a year in 2018 and 1 million in 2020. The base model will cost $35,000 before rebates, go 215 miles on a charge, and accelerate from 0 mph to 60 mph in fewer than 6 seconds.

But no one believes Musk will deliver cars at that pace. And for that and other reasons, Tesla's share price has been ravaged over the last ten days, losing nearly 20% of its value, half of it in the last two days alone. All in all, Tesla is having one of its worst stretches since its IPO seven years ago.

  • Tesla reported this week that it delivered fewer vehicles in the second quarter than it had promised, leading analysts like Goldman Sachs' David Tamberrino to conclude that demand for high-end Teslas — the premium S and the X SUV — has already plateaued.
  • KeyBanc's Brad Erickson also questions just how profitable the Model 3 will be when mass production is in full swing. He argues that Tesla must reduce its cost by 66% through expanded scale and manufacturing innovation to hit its profit targets — a tall order even for Musk.

Meanwhile competition is on Tesla's heels: Volvo this week announced that it will stop introducing new combustion-engine only vehicles next year. And Baidu partnered with chip maker Nvidia to accelerate the launch of fully autonomous cars, releasing open source software that will bring even more competition to the space.

The bottom line: Musk and Tesla have reached a rare pantheon of cultural phenomenons, capturing hearts and imaginations like no modern tech figure apart from Steve Jobs and Apple. But carmakers around the world are intent on beating Tesla to both electric and autonomous cars. That is what he has said he wanted — to create an electric car industry. Now, he will have to show he can beat back the competition.

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - World

In photos: Pope Francis spreads message of peace on first trip to Iraq

Pope Francis waving as he arrives near the ruins of the Syriac Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception (al-Tahira-l-Kubra), in the old city of Iraq's northern Mosul on March 7. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis was on Sunday visiting areas of northern Iraq once held by Islamic State militants.

Why it matters: This is the first-ever papal trip to Iraq. The purpose of Francis' four-day visit is largely intended to reassure the country's Christian minority, who were violently persecuted by ISIS, which controlled the region from 2014-2017.

Cuomo faces fresh misconduct allegations from former aides

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a February press conference in New York City. Photo: Seth Wenig/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

The office of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) was on Saturday facing fresh accusations of misconduct against his staff, including further allegations of inappropriate behavior against two more women. His office denies the claims.

Driving the news: The Washington Post reported Cuomo allegedly embraced an aide when he led the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and that two male staffers who worked for him in the governor's office accused him of routinely berating them "with explicit language."

In photos: Protesters rally for George Floyd ahead of Derek Chauvin's trial

Chaz Neal, a Redwing community activist, outside the Minnesota Governor's residence during a protest in support of George Floyd in St.Paul, Minnesota, on March 6. Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

Dozens of protesters were rallying outside the Minnesota governor's mansion in St Paul Saturday, urging justice for George Floyd ahead of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's trial over the 46-year-old's death.

The big picture: Chauvin faces charges for second-degree murder and manslaughter over Floyd's death last May, which ignited massive nationwide and global protests against racism and for police reform. His trial is due to start this Monday, with jury selection procedures.