Entry-level Tesla Model 3 now available only as a special order model

Tesla Model 3
Miles Branman/Digital Trends

The long-promised entry-level variant of the Tesla Model 3 that was announced in 2016 and released in March 2019 is no longer available through the company’s online ordering system. Motorists who want to get their hands on the $35,000 version of the car need to place a special order by calling the company, or by visiting one of the brick-and-mortar stores it’s keeping open. They’ll need to pay more than $35,000, too.

The California-based company published a blog post on its official website to announce the move. It explained that the Standard Range Plus model sold at six times the rate of the Standard Range version, so removing it from its online store streamlines the ordering process while simplifying its portfolio. The Long Range Rear-Wheel Drive model disappeared from the company’s website for the same reasons, but it’s available via special order as well.

Tesla updated the $35,00 car’s specifications. The Model 3 Standard Range is now a software-locked Standard Range Plus with 10 percent less driving range, meaning it can drive for up to 216 miles on a charge. The company disables several creature comforts via software, including the onboard music streaming service, navigation, and the heated seats. Motorists who buy a Standard Range car can pay to upgrade to Standard Range Plus specification at any time. Alternatively, those in the more expensive version can ask Tesla to downgrade their car through its over-the-air updating (or, in this case, reverting) system ,and obtain a refund.

In the same post, Tesla announced every Model 3 now comes standard with its Autopilot suite of semi-autonomous driving aids. “We think including Autopilot is very important because our data strongly indicates that the chance of an accident is much lower when Autopilot is enabled,” the company wrote. It’s passing the cost of the upgrade onto buyers, but it reduces the price of Autopilot from $3,000 to $2,000.

Tesla’s website now lists the Standard Range Plus variant as the entry-level Model 3. It starts at $39,500 including Autopilot; it cost $37,500 before the latest changes made to the car’s pricing structure came into effect, but motorists who wanted Autopilot — and most Tesla buyers do — would have needed to pay $40,500. Tesla hasn’t published the new price of the entry-level Model 3, but factoring in a $2,000 increase pegs it at $37,000.

Motorists can purchase the Model 3 outright, finance it or, starting this month, lease it directly from Tesla for a 36-month term. After selecting the version of the car that they want, they need to choose a 10,000-, 12,000-, or 15,000-annual mile lease and make a down payment of at least $3,000. About $4,200 is due at signing, though that amount varies slightly depending on the annual mileage selected. Leasing a Model 3 for 36 months with $3,000 down and a 10,000-mile annual allowance costs $504 per month.

Customers who lease a Model 3 will not have the opportunity to buy it at the end of their contract. Tesla plans to add off-lease cars to its Uber-rivaling ride-hailing network once it develops fully autonomous technology that lets the Model 3 drive itself without human input.

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