By Mike Blake
LA JOLLA, Calif., March 31 (Reuters) - Fans of luxury electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc camped out overnight and stood in lines to put down deposits on its new more affordable model, due to be unveiled at an event on Thursday evening.
In scenes reminiscent of the launch of Apple Inc products, would-be buyers of the Silicon Valley car maker's Model 3 pitched tents and set up camping chairs on the sidewalk outside Tesla stores, which began taking pre-orders for the vehicle.
Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk plans to unveil a Model 3 prototype in Los Angeles at 8:30 p.m. PDT (0330 GMT, Friday). The vehicle will go into production in late 2017 and is expected to cost around $35,000 before tax breaks.
The line at a Pasadena Tesla store near Los Angeles stretched around the block, and the San Francisco-area ABC TV affiliate showed a long line filled with camping chairs and tents at the Tesla store in Walnut Creek. In Burbank around 500 people waited at midday.
In La Jolla, California, 25-year-old biomaterials engineer Ali Athar waited for about five hours before signing up for two cars, one for him and one for his sister.
The line at the La Jolla mall stretched past a soon-to-open Amazon.com book store and an Apple store. Tesla's designs, energy efficiency, and the chance to meet like-minded people, spurred him to join the line, Athar said. Refundable deposits are $1,000 each.
"It's the beginning of a new era. I want to support that revolution," he said.
The expected price tag of the Model 3 is about half the starting price of the Model S luxury sedan, which is faster than most of the priciest supercars around the globe. The more affordable model is critical to Tesla's growth plans as it moves into a broader consumer segment.
U.S. consumers can lower the cost of electric vehicles with a $7,500 federal tax credit and some states including California offer state tax credits as well.
Tesla shares closed up 2.8 percent at $229.77 on Thursday on the Nasdaq ahead of the Model 3's public debut.
(Additional reporting by Mario Anzuoni, Krystian Orlinski, writing by Peter Henderson; Editing by Tom Brown)