Tesla owner Elon Musk handed over the first 30 of its new Model 3 cars to employees of the company who were early buyers late last night, with half a million early orders for the vehicle.
The firm received 115,000 orders in only 24 hours yesterday before the car was unveiled, Musk said, speaking at a launch event at Tesla's California design studio.
The Model 3 represents the most important step so far in the short history of Tesla, as the young electric car company seeks to make the move from a niche, high-end product to the first mass-market electric-only vehicle.
The limited roll-out will allow Tesla to test the car with trusted users who are less likely to complain about bugs and flaws as the company ramps up production.
Mass-market deliveries will begin next year, Musk said, adding he was "fairly confident" he could hit the "very doable" target of half a million vehicles annually. Tesla has in the past struggled to hit production targets.
"We need to achieve high-volume production," Musk said. The car will retail at $35,000 (£26,700), significantly cheaper than earlier models.
Musk himself has encouraged the hype around the vehicle, saying that previous Tesla models, the S and the X, were ultimately aimed at funding the Model 3.
Thank you to all our employees for your hard work making Model 3 a reality pic.twitter.com/QctmioYxRw— Tesla (@Tesla) July 29, 2017
Tesla has emphasised that it wants to make a car which can rival petrol equivalents in every sphere. The car will take less than six seconds to accelerate from 0-60mph. The range of the car, an important aspect of electric vehicle attractiveness, given the relative scarcity of charging points, will be 215 miles per charge.
The car will also come with self-driving hardware as standard, potentially allowing over-the-air updates to add self-driving capabilities once software is sufficiently developed. Some Tesla cars already have limited self-driving capabilities, called "autopilot" by the firm.
However, the self-driving technology has faced some controversy after a driver last year died in a crash when his car failed to pick up a white lorry trailer against a bright sky.
Nevertheless, the car is still likely to be one of the early leaders in the transition away from petrol-based vehicles, which Musk last night described as "really important to the future of the world". The US Energy Information Administration projects that more than eight per cent of all US vehicle sales will be electric by 2025, up from less than 1.5 per cent this year.