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Lure of Tesla Model 3 draws hundreds to Salt Lake City showroom


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SALT LAKE CITY — Hundreds lined up at Salt Lake City's Tesla showroom for a chance to put down a deposit on a car they've never seen.

Starting in the early morning hours Thursday, drivers lined up hoping to hit the road — in more than a year — in Tesla's new Model 3, a luxury all-electric vehicle coming in at a competitive $35,000 and projected to be able to clock 200 miles with a full charge. It is expected to hit the streets in late 2017.

Unveiling of the Model 3 will be streamed live on Tesla's website at 9:30 p.m. Thursday.

Tesla sales still aren't legally possible in Utah, but the Salt Lake showroom, 2312 S. State, offers a chance to check out the vehicles in person.

Devin Peterson, of Highland, got in line around 9 a.m. Thursday. By 11 a.m., he was almost to the door. As he watched the queue advance, he said it appeared to take less than three minutes for each customer to walk inside, fill out the reservation form and make their $1,000 deposit.

Peterson bought his first all-electric vehicle — a street-legal golf cart — in 2010. He still uses it whenever possible.

"I felt like I was saving the world one electric car at a time," he said.

For Peterson, the appeal of the more affordable Tesla Model 3, which costs roughly half the price of its Model S Sedan and Model X SUV, is its sleek design. He calls competitors' electric or hybrid vehicles "cheap, small and boxy."

With reservations for the Model 3 only available in person Thursday morning, some of the crowd came to Salt Lake from neighboring states to put down their names.

Jeff Brummer, of Boise, Idaho, already had tickets to see the Utah Jazz play Wednesday night when the Model 3 reservation date was announced, and he made plans to stay in town to place his deposit.

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Brummer currently drives a Nissan Altima, but one spin in a friend's Tesla Model S last year, combined with promised technological advances, was enough to get him hooked on the idea of switching.

"It was pretty awesome — 0 to 60 in like four seconds," Brummer said. "It's that and the specs. Numbers don't lie. Not having to gas up or do oil or maintenance, it seems attractive."

Looking at the long line ahead of him, Brummer said he doubts everyone who came through the showroom Thursday will ultimately end up behind the wheel of a Tesla.

"I think that, seeing as you're not going to get your car for a year and a half or two years, there will probably be some people who flake out and come in to get their money back, but I think I'm going to hold true," he said.

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McKenzie Romero

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