Update: Tesla contacted us this morning to say that in fact you can get a $35,000 Model 3 with no autopilot, if you call or visit one of its stores. As noted below, that information was not mentioned in its blog post on Thursday night.
Original story: On Thursday night, Tesla announced some changes to its Model 3 range. The lineup has been simplified, the prices have been altered, and in the US it will now be possible to lease the car.
First, Autopilot is now a mandatory option, although the company is only raising prices by $2,000 on each configuration instead of the $3,000 that customers have paid until this evening.
Next, the Standard Range Model 3—the one with cloth seats that Elon Musk told us about as recently as February—is now gone. Instead, the cheapest Model 3 will be a software-locked version of the Standard Range Plus, which now costs $39,500. Its range drops from 240 miles (386km) to 216 miles (348km), and features like music streaming, navigation with live traffic, and heated seats will be disabled. Additionally, if you want one you have to call the company or visit one of the stores—there is no option to order it online.
Tesla says that customers can pay to unlock the features of the Standard Range Plus at any time or choose to downgrade to the Standard Range and receive a refund for the difference in price. Since the Standard Range is not listed on the site, we can’t confirm if the entry-level car now starts at $37,000 before any incentives at the time of writing. Assuming it is, the cost to unlock the extra 24 miles and those seat heaters should be $2,500.
The Long Range rear-wheel drive Model 3 has now also been dropped from online ordering. If you want one of these you’ll also have to call or visit a store. However, you can still order a Long Range all-wheel drive Model 3 ($49,500 before incentives) and the Model 3 Performance ($59,500 before incentives). That means the most expensive Model 3 with Autopilot is now actually $1,500 cheaper than when we tested one a month ago; not a bad deal for a car that certainly impressed me.
Finally, it will now be possible to lease a Model 3 instead of buying one—in the US, at least. All leases are for 36 months, with the option for 10,000, 12,000, or 15,000 miles a year (16,093km, 19,312km, 24,140km). The minimum lease deposit is $3,000 for all three Model 3s, although the amount due at signing varies depending on both spec and mileage; this ranges from $4,199 to $4,584. Monthly leasing payments decrease if a customer chooses to make a larger down-payment, but, if not, these range from $535 for the cheapest Standard Range Plus car to $889 for the Model 3 Performance.
At the end of the three-year lease, there will be no option to buy the car. Tesla says that “with full autonomy coming in the future via an over-the-air software update, we plan to use those vehicles in the Tesla ride-hailing network.” On April 22, the company is planning an open day for investors where it will reveal more details about its self-driving efforts, presumably intending to dispel the notion that it is lagging far behind autonomous vehicle leaders like Waymo.