Although Tesla has only planned for expansion in international markets in 2019, the company has begun the registration process for Model 3 VINs in Europe. VIN numbers 116264 through 116270 were registered for 4 AWD variants and 3 RWD variants. While that could indicate that the launch date for Europe may have been bumped up, it could simply mean that Tesla is going to deploy a few cars there possibly as test drive vehicles or for other testing purposes.
Model 3s have been spotted in the past in Europe, specifically in Germany and the Netherlands. However, these have all been imported by the owners since Tesla doesn’t yet sell the Model 3 in those markets.
VIN registrations have been a fairly good benchmark for estimating production numbers, and we will now start watching European VINs to see if Tesla is going to be registering the vehicles in high volumes ahead of a potential launch.
One thing to keep in mind is that Tesla is likely to hold back international expansion until it can hit the 10,000 cars a week production mark, which they expect to do in early 2019. Right now, the focus is off production and on deliveries as we wade through the final week of the third quarter. There are still five days left for the quarter to end, and Tesla is putting all its efforts and creativity into making sure the cars they produce are immediately dispatched for delivery.
Except for cars that will be made for right-hand-drive countries like the UK, there isn’t much different about the European Model 3. The charge port is different, and there are other minor changes that will allow European regulatory bodies to homologate the car for specific markets in Europe, but other than that they’re pretty much the same cars sold in the U.S. right now.
That being said, the minor changes could require enough of an alteration process in the current manufacturing work flow for Tesla to hold off until production numbers are sustainable at a much higher rate than the current <4,000 cars a week they’re making.
Realistically, a mid-2019 debut for the Model 3 in Europe makes more sense than an early-2019 one. Tesla’s service capacity around the world is woefully inadequate, and the company won’t want another Norway situation in hot markets like Germany. With production considerations on one side and delivery and after-sales service on the other, the company needs to move decisively but cautiously before beginning Model 3 sales in any new market.