Tesla is changing up its retail strategy yet again, this time deciding to end online sales of the long-awaited $35,000 version of its Model 3 sedan (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source). The move comes just over a month after the company announced that the $35,000 version was finally coming to market. The New York Times reports: In a blog post late Thursday, Tesla said customers wanting the $35,000 version of the Model 3 would have to make the purchase by phone or in person at one of its stores. The cheapest Model 3s ordered online will now include Tesla’s Autopilot driver-assistance system and a longer battery range, features that increase the price to $39,500. The blog post said Tesla was making the changes to “simplify vehicle choices and to make Autopilot more affordable.” Such a configuration would previously have cost $40,500, it said.
A Tesla spokesman said the change would allow the company to produce one version of the Model 3 and use software to limit the battery range and turn off features such as heated seats for customers who wanted the $35,000 model. A longer range and additional features will be switched on in the $39,500 car, known as the Standard Plus model. Previously, Tesla planned to put a smaller battery pack in the basic model and a larger one in the Standard Plus, the spokesman said. Tesla’s announcement also said it would begin leasing the Model 3, but would not offer customers the option to buy the cars after their leases expired, a departure from the typical industry practice and its own policy on other models. Tesla said it aimed to upgrade Model 3s returned after a lease to allow them to drive themselves, with no human at the wheel, and be deployed in a driverless taxi fleet. The company acknowledged that the technology for driverless taxis was still in development and would need to be approved by safety regulators before such a business could begin.
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