A top General Motors executive took some shots at Tesla Motors during a speech in Detroit today, illustrating how heated the competition could become in the near future as the Detroit automaker battles the upstart Wall Street darling for electric vehicle leadership.

Dan Nicholson, GM’s vice president of global propulsion systems, said the Chevrolet Bolt battery electric vehicle will go on sale long before Tesla’s Model 3 — a car that has generated far more national buzz.

“I am very proud of the Chevrolet Bolt that’s coming out, which will be the first to market as a long-range affordable battery electric vehicle,” Nicholson said today at an engineering conference in Detroit. “It will have more than 200 miles of range and it will be in production by the end of 2016, so it’s not necessary to put down $1,000 and wait until 2018 or some time after that.”

Nicholson’s comment comes days after Tesla drew nationwide media coverage as it accepted at least 325,000 refundable “preorders” from customers who eagerly plopped down $1,000 for their Model 3 reservation.

Tesla’s Model 3 and the Chevrolet Bolt are destined to be head-to-head competitors even though the Model 3 is a sleek car and the Bolt has the looks of a crossover.

Both vehicles are designed to be affordable to mainstream consumers. The Bolt, which debuted in January 2015 at the North American International Auto Show, will go into production late this year at GM’s Orion assembly plant.

GM’s dealers far outnumber Tesla’s company-owned showrooms, but buzz about the Model 3 has far exceeded attention generated by the Bolt. Lines formed outside Tesla showrooms around the country last week as customers waited to reserve the car.

The Model 3 will be priced at $35,000 while GM has said the Bolt will be priced at about $37,000.

The Model 3 will have a range of at least 215 miles on a full charge, while the Bolt will go about 200 miles.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk says it will start delivery of the Model 3 to customers in late 2017, but the company’s track record for launching cars on time is spotty. Tesla also is burning through $400 million of cash each quarter and may need to borrow money or raise capital to produce the Model 3.

“GM’s balance sheet is in pretty strong shape, so we don’t need to take $1,000 of your money just to hold a spot,” Nicholson said today at SAE World Congress. “And you can actually get it in 2016.”

Contact Brent Snavely: 313-222-6512 or bsnavely@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @BrentSnavely. Free Press reporter Greg Gardner contributed to this report.