Tesla Never Really Had Its Heart In The $35,000 Model 3

Illustration for article titled Tesla Never Really Had Its Heart In The $35,000 Model 3
Photo: Getty Images (Getty Images)

I’m old enough to remember when the Tesla Model 3 was supposed to be the affordable Tesla, the one that costs “only” $35,000, except we only ever really saw the $35,000 Model 3 in fits and starts. Now it looks as if Tesla might soon be moving on from the $35,000 Model 3 for good.


First, I must share that today I personally enjoyed reading the headlines and time stamps on the following two Jalopnik stories from last year:

Illustration for article titled Tesla Never Really Had Its Heart In The $35,000 Model 3
Screenshot: Google

Real roller coaster of emotions there. The thing is, the $35,000 Model 3 did eventually appear, though later you had to order it in person at a dealership or call Tesla sold it online only for a brief bit. That Model 3 was a $38,000 Model 3 but “software-limited” to get its price down to $35,000. Some people bought it this way, but when companies start making it actively harder to buy a product it’s a sure sign that said product’s days are probably numbered. That is possibly, in the case of the $35,000 Model 3, because Tesla could be selling it at a loss.

All of which is to say, according to Electrek, the $35,000 Model 3 might soon be a thing of the past.

Sources familiar with the matter told Electrek that Tesla informed its staff that they weren’t allowed to “downgrade” new 2021 Model 3 vehicles to “Standard Range” and sell them for $35,000.

They are still allowed to software-limit features on 2020 Model 3 Standard Range Plus vehicles that are still in inventory and sell those to customers as Model 3 Standard Range for $35,000, but not the new 2021 Model 3, which comes with new features.

Earlier this year, Tesla CEO Elon Musk acknowledged that its cars aren’t affordable enough implicitly including the $35,000 Model 3—saying that it was working on an even cheaper model, a $25,000 compact. Which is still a fair amount of money considering that Tesla buyers no longer get the $7,500 federal tax credit but it is, you know, a start.

It also allows us to move on from the idea that a $35,000 Model 3 was ever particularly affordable in the first place, or that a $35,000 Model 3 would even be particularly desirable, as software-limited as it ended up being. Because if you’re getting a Tesla without all the tech you’re kind of defeating the purpose of getting a Tesla at all.


That means that a $25,000 Tesla with most or all of Tesla’s tech would be a big step forward. But as we’ve learned with Tesla, we’ll just have to watch and wait.

I emailed Tesla for comment and will update this blog if I get a response.

News Editor at Jalopnik. 2008 Honda Fit Sport.


Honestly, this whole debate is dumb.

In 2016, Tesla announced that the Model 3 would cost $35,000, have 215 miles of range, go from 0-60 in 5.6 seconds, and have an interior with cloth seats. It would have charged at 100kW and didn’t have Autopilot standard.

In 2020, Tesla sells a Model 3 for $37,900. It has 263 miles of range, goes from 0-60 in 5.1 seconds, and has an interior with pleather seats. This car charges at 170kW and includes Autopilot in the price.

Now, let me pull up an inflation calculator: