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Model 3 hits Tesla showroom in Century City. No test drives, though

Model 3 hits Tesla showroom in Century City. No test drives, though
People check out the Tesla Model 3 at the Westfield Century City showroom Friday morning. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Tesla created big buzz at the L.A. Auto Show in November when it displayed its vaunted Model 3.

It also created some disappointment, as the doors on the car remained locked and people had to press their faces against the windows to see the interior.

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Starting Friday, though, shoppers not only can view a Model 3 at the Tesla showroom in Century City, they also can open the doors, look inside and sit behind the wheel.

It's the same deal at Tesla's Palo Alto showroom in Silicon Valley, blocks from Sand Hill Road, the center of the venture capital industry.

"For the first time, the public is able to get up close and personal with the car, including being able to tour the car's interior," Tesla said in a news release. "Knowledgeable showroom staff" will be on hand to answer questions, the company said.

More Tesla showrooms around the U.S. will get a Model 3 display vehicle in the "near future," according to Tesla. The company was not specific about timing but did say the first cars will appear in markets with high levels of Model 3 reservations.

Test drives are not available yet, the company said.

The company said last summer that 455,000 people put down refundable deposits for a Model 3. When the company first started accepting deposits, thousands of customers lined up at showrooms, creating a frenzy more typical for an Apple iPhone. The number of deposits hasn't been updated since.

But most reservation holders will have to wait months longer than expected for their cars. Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk had promised a weekly production rate of 5,000 by the end of December 2017. Now, according to the company's latest forecast, the weekly rate will hit 2,500 by the end of March and 5,000 by the end of June.

The all-electric Model 3 is the most talked about new car in the auto industry. Its success would represent vindication for Tesla, where legions of short sellers are betting the stock is overvalued and due for a deep dive.

Tesla rocked the auto business in 2012 with the luxury-priced Model S. Its good looks, high horsepower, tight drive, automated driving systems and tech amenities drew praise from customers and critics alike. It was followed by the Model X SUV.

The Model 3 went on sale in July 2017. Production problems limited Model 3 unit sales last year to 1,770 cars. The company said the Model 3 marks the "culmination of Tesla's Master Plan" to bring desirable electric vehicles to the mass market.

Originally advertised with a base price of $35,000, the cars being sold now run closer to $50,000. Production of the less-expensive version is months in the future, the company said.

For now, according to Tesla's news release, the Model 3 "is not only a sustainable mode of transport, but is the best vehicle available for our near half million reservation holders."

Twitter: @russ1mitchell

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