Thousands of Tesla costumers could soon be asking for a refund after the company announced, once again, that the base $35,000 Model 3 will be delayed, this time by a quoted nine months. This puts the release date for the first truly affordable Tesla beyond 2018, at which point the $7,500 federal tax credit will have expired.
There are roughly 500,000 reservation-holders for the Model 3, and despite multiple delays, many have kept the faith that Elon Musk would be able to keep his promise. However following this recent announcement, exactly how many will be willing to give up their tax credit, and wait another year for their car is pretty much an open question.
Investors are also getting anxious if the electric automaker's stock price will be able to survive such an event with the majority of its value being based on the company realizing its projections. Should the company be forced to issue refunds, it might as well spell doom for the chronically cash-strapped company.
Judging from online forums, roughly 20 to 40 percent of reservation-holders are expected to cancel immediately. Should this scenario prove to be the case, the refunds could wreak havoc on the on the company's stock and creditworthiness. With investor money and loans pretty much the only thing keeping Tesla afloat, it's unclear how the company will be able to afford these $1,000 refunds.
And even if Tesla manages to survive the de-facto bank run, there's also the reality of new wave of affordable electric vehicles that will flood the market taking out a huge chunk out of the company's market share. While the Model 3 may have been ahead of its time, much of that lead has been trimmed down as other companies began innovating, in some cases using Tesla's own technology.
Time is running out for this one-time darling of the electric vehicle industry. And if Elon Musk fails to deliver, not only will one of the world's premiere technology company flounder, but the billionaire will definitely miss out on one of the biggest payday's in history.