July 3 (UPI) -- Tesla Motors Inc. announced its Model 3 mass-market electric car will begin production on Friday after passing regulatory production requirements.
The first car will roll off the assembly line two weeks ahead of schedule. Tesla has scheduled a "handover party" for the first 30 customers for July 28.
The company plans to produce 20,000 cars in December, company founder Elon Musk said Monday in a series of Twitter comments.
The Model 3, an electric-powered car selling for about $35,000, is a crucial test for the company and its plans to make affordable electric vehicles available to a wide range of customers. Musk said he hopes Tesla will manufacturer 500,000 cars per year by 2018. The company has made about 85,000 vehicles thus far, selling them at prices of $90,000 and beyond.
About 400,000 pre-orders for the Model 3 have been received from customers since the car went on display a year ago. Musk said that Tesla's Fremont, Calif., manufacturing plant is working at capacity, adding that discussions with Chinese officials about opening a Shanghai plant have taken place.
Investor confidence has driven Tesla stock up 67 percent in 2017, closing Friday at $361.61 per share. The company has a market value of $59 billion, higher than that of General Motors Co. or the Ford Motor Co.