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Tesla fans flock to Pasadena showroom to reserve affordable Model 3

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Tesla Motors plans to unveil its Model 3 electric car, the company's new lower priced sedan, on Thursday, prompting fans to flock to the Pasadena showroom to reserve their affordable electric car. (KABC)

Tesla Motors plans to unveil its Model 3 electric car, the company's new lower priced sedan, on Thursday, prompting fans to flock to the Pasadena showroom to reserve their affordable electric car.

The line stretched around the blocks as early as 6 a.m. Those braving the elements overnight in sleeping bags and camping chairs haven't even seen the car yet.

Tesla is expected to reveal the Model 3 at 8:30 p.m. at its Los Angeles design studio.

At a starting price of $35,000 - before federal and state government incentives - the Model 3 is less than half the cost of Tesla's previous models. The car is expected to have a range of at least 200 miles when fully charged, about double what drivers get from competitors in its price range, such as the Nissan Leaf and BMW i3.

Tesla didn't release details about the car before the event. Potential buyers could start putting down $1,000 deposits Thursday for the Model 3. It's scheduled to go on sale at the end of next year.

Tesla has said it expects to start Model 3 production at its Fremont, California, factory at the end of 2017. But the company has a history of delays.

"That's all right, you know, just to think that you're going to get a Tesla in a year, it's worth the wait," said Ezequiel Olvera, a Tesla enthusiast.

Those lined up in Pasadena got their chance to put their deposits down when doors opened at 10 a.m.

Matt Mantyla was also one of the many Tesla fans lined up outside the Pasadena dealership.

"I'm actually from Utah. I actually flew back from Europe today to come specifically to reserve a Model 3," Mantyla said.

Right now, Tesla sells two vehicles: The Model S sedan, which starts at $71,000, and the Model X SUV, which starts around $80,000. But a lower-priced car has been a longtime goal of Tesla CEO Elon Musk. In a 2006 blog post, Musk said Tesla planned to build "a wide range of models, including affordably priced family cars" in order to speed the world toward a solar-powered future.

How did the Tesla make the Model 3 less expensive? Cheaper batteries. Tesla previously assembled its battery packs with battery cells made in Japan by Panasonic Corp. But Tesla and Panasonic are building a massive, $5 billion factory in Nevada that will supply batteries for the Model 3. Tesla says the scale of the factory will lower the cost of its battery packs by 30 percent.

The Model 3 puts Tesla within reach of millions more customers. Last year, only 2.1 percent of new cars purchased in the U.S. cost $75,000 or more, but 35 percent - or 5.5 million - cost $35,000 or more, according to TrueCar. The Model 3 is a critical part of the money-losing automaker's plan to increase sales from around 85,000 this year to 500,000 by 2020.

But Tesla faces several hurdles. U.S. buyers remain skeptical of electric cars, and low gas prices haven't helped already anemic sales. Sales of new electric vehicles grew 6 percent in the U.S. last year, but they still remain less than 1 percent of the overall vehicle market, according to IHS Automotive. Tesla also faces growing competition from big, deep-pocketed rivals like General Motors Co.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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automotiveteslacarelon muskbusinesselectric vehiclestechnologyPasadenaLos Angeles County
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