Tesla Motors said today it will begin European deliveries of its long-awaited mass-market Model 3 electric car from February.

A spokesperson told AFP the first to take delivery would be customers who had reserved their Model 3 starting March 2016 if they confirm their order by January 1.

The spokesperson said customers would be invited to confirm over the coming weeks, starting today. 

Tesla's mid-size, four-door all-electric family car was first unveiled in its US home base in July last year.

Controversial founder Elon Musk in October described the Model 3 as "the best-selling car in the US in terms of revenue and the 5th best-selling car in terms of volume."

Musk was recently forced to step back from the role of chairman over a tweet in which he said he planned to take the firm private.

He said he wants to make the Model 3, which currently starts at around €44,000, a "mainstream product."

With its mid-range battery pack the Model 3 is more compact and lighter than the brand's luxury S and X models and is designed to make Tesla world leader as a producer of electric cars as it scales up production capacity. 

The company has in recent weeks seen sales volumes comparable to more established brands such as German trio Audi, BMW and Mercedes, despite its much narrower product range. 

Tesla now looks to have overcome production capacity concerns which have worried investors for months. 

Between January and September the firm said global deliveries of all models had reached 126,000 - more than 53,000 of those coming in the third quarter. 

If the brand can keep that up then deliveries across 2018 are set to hit around 180,000 compared with 100,000 last year. 

For the time being, European customers will only have two Model 3 options. 

One is a long-range version delivering 544 kilometres (338 miles) on a single charge costing from around €60,000 before any incentives such as the "eco-bonus" in France worth €6,000. 

A dual-motor Performance model starts from around €70,000. 

Tesla has promised to supply much cheaper versions in due course, coming nearer to the initial $35,000 pricing. 

The company has not indicated how many Model 3 reservations European clients have made.