Tesla is adding two top specification versions of the Model 3, suggesting those waiting for a 'base' version may be kept waiting for some time.

Delivering the base price model at this point would cause the company "to lose money & die" Musk declared in a Twitter post cited by the New York Times.

Tesla began producing the Model 3 last summer and so far it has made only versions selling for US$49,000 or more. The base model priced at $35,000 — meant to make the car broadly affordable — is not yet available, the paper said.

In a series of recent tweets, Musk suggested that the company would suffer significant losses on the $35,000 model at this stage. He said that Tesla must increase Model 3 production to 5,000 cars a week — and then keep up that pace for three to six months — before it could begin shipping the base version.

The company has said it expects to offer the standard model by the end of the year, the paper noted.

Musk said two more variants were now available for order - an all-wheel-drive version starting at $54,000 and a high-performance model at $78,000.

Toni Sacconaghi, an analyst at Sanford C Bernstein & Company, told the New York Times it was not unusual for companies to produce higher priced, more profitable models when they start making a new vehicle. But Tesla risks frustrating its customers if the most affordable version isn't available soon, he said.

The Model 3 "was dubbed the first mass market car, and a year after launch, we're getting more higher-priced versions and the $35,000 model isn't out," he said.

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