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Tesla finally announces $35,000 Model 3, moves to online-only sales model

Tesla Model 3 Red
Tesla Motors

Tesla’s long-promised $35,000 entry-level Model 3 is finally available. An upgraded, $37,000 Model 3 Standard Range Plus model with greater range, more power, and a fancier interior has also joined the portfolio. You can order either of the two entry-level versions online today by placing a $2,500 nonrefundable deposit, and take delivery in two to four weeks, according to the company.

The $35,000 Model 3 many customers have waited years to buy travels for up to 220 miles per charge, accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, and has a top speed of 130 miles per hour. The $37,000 Model 3 Standard Range Plus boasts 5.3-second 0-to-60 performance, a 140-mph top speed, and up to 240 miles of range. According to Tesla, “for 6 percent more money, you get 9 percent more range, more power, and an upgraded interior.” Nothing is changed in the $35,000 or $37,000 models that will affect the U.S. government’s five-star safety rating of the longer range model, Tesla wrote. Both variants are rear-wheel drive.

The base version comes standard with manually adjustable seats wrapped by cloth upholstery, basic audio, and navigation displayed on a 15.0-inch touchscreen perched on the dashboard.  The model’s driver assistance systems (ADAS) include emergency braking, collision warning, and blind-spot monitoring.

The Model 3 Standard Range Plus appears to be the sweet spot for buyers who want to keep the price low. The extra $2,000 list price buys 12-way power-adjustable front seats that are heated, premium seat material and trim, an upgraded audio system with immersive sound, and docking for two smartphones.

Tesla began taking reservation deposits for the Model 3 in March 2016 based on the promise of a $35,000 starting price before government tax incentives. Following rumors of more than 500,000 reservations, and a company statement that implied 400,000 orders in April 2016 alone, Tesla filed an SEC report in May 2016 that stated it had received a net total of 373,000 confirmed reservations.

When the first Model 3s started trickling off the Fremont, California production lines at the very end of 2017, Tesla made only upgraded versions, with list prices commonly above $50,000. According to the company, starting with higher-priced versions of the car intended for average consumers was necessary to fund the rapid build-out of the manufacturing facilities.

The upmarket variants remain available. If you load up a Model 3 with the premium interior and dual motor all-wheel drive performance version, the starting price is $58,000. If you add $3,000 for AutoPilot and $5,000 for Full Self-Driving Capability (partially enabled at this time), the list price total is $66,000. A decked out Model 3 has 3.2-second 0-to-60 mph acceleration, 162-mph top speed, and a 310-mile maximum range. You have to make a $2,500 nonrefundable deposit to order a fully loaded Model 3, but you can take delivery within two weeks, according to the website.

Tesla announced the two relatively low-cost Model 3 versions in a blog post which also stated it’s shifting sales worldwide to online-only in a bid to cut costs. The company is shutting down most of its stores, though it will keep some of the busier ones open as showrooms and service centers. But, moving forward, the only way to buy a brand-new Tesla will be via the company’s official website.

In a memo to employees cited by CNBC, Tesla CEO Elon Musk wrote, “last year, 78 percent of all Model 3 orders were placed online, rather than in a store, and 82 percent of customers bought their Model 3 without ever having taken a test drive.” Accordingly, Tesla announced a new car purchase trial period. Effective immediately, “you can now return a car within seven days or 1,000 miles for a full refund.”

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