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Tesla is recruiting designers in China to create its first city car

Tesla city car sketch
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The Model 3 might not remain Tesla’s entry-level model for long. The Californian company has started recruiting designers in China to create a city car it plans to position at the bottom of its range.

Posting on its official WeChat account, Tesla announced it’s in the early stages of opening a research and design center in the world’s largest electric car market. It wrote it has many positions to fill, including several in an upcoming styling studio that will be tasked with creating Chinese-style vehicles. While it didn’t define the term, it illustrated the recruitment notice with a sketch showing what looks like its smallest car to date.

Rumors have pointed to a Tesla city car in the past, but the sketch gives the industry its first glimpse at what the model could look like. Its front end clearly borrows styling cues from the Model 3 and the Model Y, though it’s smaller than either. It almost reminds us of the Genesis Mint concept introduced at the 2019 New York Auto Show, and allegedly on its way to production as part of the South Korean luxury firm’s recently announced six-car lineup.

There’s no guarantee the city car will look like the model depicted in Tesla’s sketch. If it’s recruiting designers, odds are it wants to start from scratch, not fine-tune an existing project. Similarly, technical specifications aren’t available, though it’s reasonable to assume it will make its debut with an electric powertrain, and Tesla’s Autopilot technology.

“Something that would be super cool, so we’re going to do it, is to try to create a China design and engineering center to actually design an original car in China for worldwide consumption. I think this will be very exciting,” company co-founder and CEO Elon Musk said after delivering the first Model 3 with a “made in China” label.

Tesla recently inaugurated a factory on the outskirts of Shanghai. It began manufacturing the Model 3 for the local market in late 2019, and it could produce the yet-unnamed city car in the coming years. Other details, like when the model will break cover and whether it will be sold in the United States, where city cars don’t sell well, remain under wraps for the time being. We’ve reached out to the company, and we’ll update this story if we learn more.

The next new car from Tesla is the Model Y, a crossover based on the Model 3 and tentatively due out during the first half of 2020. The Cybertruck is scheduled to enter production by the end of 2020, too, and the second-generation Roadster packed with rocket technology is also expected to hit the road this year.

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Ronan Glon
Ronan Glon is an American automotive and tech journalist based in southern France. As a long-time contributor to Digital…
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