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Tesla Motors Inc CEO Elon Musk unveils a new all-wheel-drive version of the Model S car in Hawthorne, California October 9, 2014.
Reuters/Lucy Nicholson
The showman.

Elon Musk tweeted the date he will deliver the first mass-market Tesla

By Steve LeVine

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has announced (in his favorite way, by tweet) that he will unveil what he hopes will be his breakaway electric car, the Model 3, in March. As previously promised, it will cost $35,000. But it will take until the fall of 2017 to deliver the first vehicles. Here is the tweet.

The announcement is not a surprise—Musk has said for several years now that he will deliver the mass-market sedan in 2017. But now he appears to be making it more official (in the series of three tweets continued below, he also said he will deliver the much-anticipated crossover Tesla X on Sept. 29).

He said the time is needed to finish the so-called Gigafactory, the gigantic lithium-ion battery factory near Reno, Nevada that is intended to drive down the price of his cars.

The Model 3 is important for two reasons: its price, at the low end of luxury cars such as the BMW 3 Series; and its range, which he has said in the past will be at least 200 miles on a single charge.

A number of rivals plan to unveil their own cars with similar capability in around the same time frame, including GM, VW and BMW, making the end of the decade a possible tipping point in the electric car age.