Promised $35,000 Tesla Model 3 is finally on sale

Tesla Model 3 profile side gray

At long last, Tesla is bringing its promised $35,000 Model 3 to market.

The company announced Thursday that it will finally offer an affordable version of its entry-level EV with a sticker price of $35,000. Factor in the federal EV tax credit and you’re looking at $31,250, or $32,450 with destination. In some states buyers may benefit from additional state tax credits.

Getting there was no easy feat. Company CEO Elon Musk always promised an EV for everyone, and said it would cost less than 30 grand after the incentives. Making it work proved to be too much for the upstart automaker, two years after the car started rolling out of the factory in Fremont, California, the cheapest one started at $44,000.

To get the price down, Tesla cut the range to a still-impressive 220 miles, installed a less luxurious interior with less premium surfaces and wood, and offered the car with rear-wheel drive only. Performance takes a cut, too—you’ll have to settle for top speed of just 130 mph and a 0-60 time of 5.6 seconds. At this price, you’ve gotta adjust the seats and steering wheel manually, and live with a more pedestrian stereo and navigation system, too.

tesla model 3 configurator standard range
Tesla
Model 3 configurator

Given all the hoopla the cars introduction brought—literally hundreds of thousands of people forked over deposits of $2500, Tesla made today’s announcement with little fanfare. Given Musk’s propensity for telling everyone how great he and his company are, it’s odd that the company made so big an announcement with a change to its online Tesla configurator, an email to its stores, a conference call, and a short press release.

The new Model 3 and its optional upgrades allow Tesla to fill in rungs on the price ladder. The $2000 Partial Premium Interior comes with the Standard Range Plus battery. That gives you another 20 miles of range, a 10 mph faster top speed, and takes 0.3 seconds off the 0-60 time. Interior upgrades include premium seat material and trim with 12-way power adjustable and heated front seats, upgraded audio system with immersive sound. LED fog lamps, and two smartphone docks.

A full Premium Interior with the 264-mile midrange battery will MSRP at $40,000 and adding the 325-mile long-range battery will push that to $43,000, just $1000 less than the least expensive all-wheel-drive Model 3.

Autopilot will now cost you $3000.

Tesla says its engineers have figured out how to use the batteries more efficiently. The company is bringing back the discontinued long range rear-wheel-drive Model 3, the original version of the Model 3 and offering firmware upgrades to owners that enable a 325-mile range. That version was discontinued while Tesla was dedicating the big battery pack to the twin-motor AWD versions. Other firmware changes will increase the top speed of the Model 3 Performance to 162 mph, and add about 5 percent power to all models.

Tesla also announced a rather novel money back guarantee on the Model 3. You have 7 days and 1000 miles to bring back the car for a full refund. Lest you think people will abuse that system, buying a car on a Friday for a weekend road trip and bringing it back on Monday, Tesla has no problem with that. Tesla owners generally love their cars so the company is confident new owners will keep them.

Changes to their retail model have been made as well, all global sales will now take place online. Tesla factory stores outside the United States will close. Factory owned showrooms in the United States will stay open but will revert to galleries. That should resolve Teslas issues in Michigan and other states with strong dealer franchise laws that prohibit factory stores.