Businesses flexing a bit of legal chicanery to reap the greatest benefit certainly isn’t a new phenomenon under capitalism, though what Tesla’s been doing with the Model 3 in Canada recently is an especially absurd example. The automaker has been selling an intentionally terrible version of its entry-level sedan in the Great White North for the past two years, though it’s tried to keep the car’s existence on the down low — until now.
Go to the Model 3 configurator on Tesla’s Canadian website and you will see a checkbox under the Standard Range Plus model labeled “Limit to 151 km range.” That’s the equivalent of about 93 miles, and when you select it, the car’s price goes down by about $7,000 CAD. For reference, the Model 3 Standard Range Plus can travel 262 miles on a charge.
This checkbox was not present on the Model 3 configurator until recently, according to Electrek. It indicates that perhaps Tesla is being forced to acknowledge the existence of this model on its website when it hasn’t for the past two years.
So why does Tesla sell a woefully short-range version of the Model 3? In an effort to encourage carmakers to build affordable EVs and stimulate sales, the Canadian government instituted a program in 2019 where vehicles priced under $45,000 CAD that cost no more than $55,000 CAD after options would qualify for a $5,000 CAD incentive. In Canada, the Model 3 family initially started at more than $45,000 CAD, so it wouldn’t have qualified.
So Tesla hatched a clever idea. It went back and created the 93-mile Model 3 and priced it at $44,999. The mere existence of this version of the car made the $53,000 CAD Standard Range Plus version of the car eligible for the credit.
Now, Tesla never expected anyone to buy the bad Model 3, nor did it want to even sell the car in the first place. Until this week, you’ve never been able to configure the car on Tesla’s site. If you wanted the bad Model 3 for whatever reason, you had to order it in person or over the phone.
That’s now changed, and that checkbox lets you build a 93-mile Model 3 if that’s something you’re interested in. Hell, Tesla’s apparently sold a few of them over the years, according to Electrek. The range on this version is software-locked (by limiting the battery capacity available for use), and you can’t pay to bring it up to 262 miles after the fact. It also lacks Autopilot. In fact, the entire car is the same, battery pack, guts and all, as the Standard Range Plus version — simply made undesirable through software.
It’s unclear why Tesla is now presenting this as an option on its site. It may have been mandated by the government, though we don’t yet know for sure. We’d ask the company directly, but it obliterated its entire PR department. In lieu of that, we’ve reached out to Transport Canada and will let you know should we learn anything.
Updated April 12, 4:16 p.m. ET: Transport Canada Senior Communications Advisor Sau Sau Liu told Jalopnik that it didn’t force Tesla to add the 93-mile Model 3 to its configurator, but also said that Transport Canada “works with all automakers” to make sure eligible vehicles are visible online:
Transport Canada works with all automakers to ensure vehicles eligible for the iZEV program are visible to consumers on company websites. Tesla’s inclusion of the Model 3 base model to its online vehicle configurator was done on a voluntary basis.