Editors Note (4/13/19) - We have received contradictory information from Tesla regarding the pricing and availability of features on the Model 3 Standard. Our press contacts have not returned our communications and we have not gotten a straight answer out of Tesla on the record. However, the consensus seems to be that the $35k is still an option in some capacity.
We are still uncertain about the availability of Autopilot on the $35k model. Ars Technica reported that the Standard $35k model can be ordered but has no autopilot. However, it indicates that by default the price will be higher unless the buyer specifically requests no Autopilot. But we also were told by a Tesla gallery employee that the $35k model includes Autopilot with no price increase. Either way, the $35k model remains.
We have updated the article to reflect what we currently know and will continue to reach out to Tesla for more details.
Tesla will be happier if you buy the more expensive versions
Tesla decided to make the $3,000 Autopilot option standard, but at least in some versions the price increased. In the case of Standard Range Plus, prices went up by $2,000, while the Long Range AWD version increased by $1,000. The price of the Performance version didn't change at all.
"Today, we’re making some changes to online ordering to simplify vehicle choices and make Autopilot more affordable.
All Tesla vehicles now come with Autopilot bundled as a standard feature for less than the prior cost of the option. For example, Model 3 Standard Plus used to cost $37,500, plus $3,000 for the Autopilot option. It now costs $39,500, with Autopilot included."
The move was combined with removing the Standard Range and Long Range RWD versions from the online design studio - technically those two versions are still available, but on individual order through a call or at a store, as a software-limited higher version. The prices of those are not shown - we had originally assumed a a price increase would be coming.
The latest move was reportedly motivated by simplification of the offer, but as the Autopilot hardware was already the same there is not much to simplify. Moreover, there is no such simplifying in the case of the Model S or Model X, which are more expensive vehicles and we guess more often equipped with the Autopilot than the Model 3. We suspect it would be more reasonable to first make mandatory Autopilot in S/X.
That was the first yellow warning light whether it's about simplifying or simply the company is not able to offer the base $35,000 Model 3 and achieve profitability goals.
Where's The Standard?
Previous orders of the $35,000 Model 3 Standard will be fulfilled, using a software-limited Model 3 Standard Plus. The Standard model will still be available in some form at $35,000 but the details are scarce. Ars Technica initially reported that the Standard $35k model can be ordered - but has no Autopilot. It seemed to indicate that the default Standard price will be higher unless the buyer specifically requests no Autopilot.
However, since we had yet to receive a response from Tesla corporate, we reached out to a local U.S. Tesla gallery. The employee was helpful but seemed similarly uncertain. His understanding was that the base model will remain $35k and this price will include autopilot. We will continue to try and get a firm answer from the automaker.
Tesla Model 3 prices in the U.S.
- Standard Range (2019) - $35,000 - ($37,000 with Autopilot?)*
- Standard Range Plus (2019) - $39,500 (previously $37,500, up $2,000)
- Long Range RWD (2019) - $46,500? (previously $44,500)
- Long Range AWD (2019) - $49,500 (previously $48,500, up $1,000)
- Performance LR AWD (2019) - $59,500 (previously $59,500, no change)
Some Prices Up, Others Down
As we can see in the pricing list, the higher trim versions are priced similar to before, while getting Autopilot as standard. In the case of the Performance version it can be treated like a price drop of $3,000, while the Long-Range AWD went up by $1,000.
There could be reasons behind that - the top two models are profitable and Tesla wants to sell more of them. That's the opposite from the bottom versions, which in the case of Standard Range was removed from the design studio - seems like a discouragement to buy the less profitable versions.
Tesla has the right to make changes, and without a doubt, it should make them if necessary. We are only wondering whether the $35,000 Tesla is possible or not yet. As of today, we land at $39,500 (plus the unknown lower price for the Standard version outside the design studio) two months before the federal tax credit will decrease by $1,875 to $1,875 on July 1, 2019.
Or maybe this is all just totally wrong and Tesla is redirecting customers to higher versions because demand is huge, which is an opportunity to earn more and beat previous targets?