Tesla's $35,000 Model 3 just got even harder to buy

Tesla Model 3 Standard Range dropped from online configurator

The base price of the Plus has also been increased from $37,500 to $39,500, but it now comes with the semi-autonomous Autopilot electronic driving aid, which was a $3,000 option.

The new Standard will have a software-limited range that's 10 percent less than the Plus. These cars will be upgraded over-the-air with full autonomy according to Tesla, which plans to use those Model 3s "in the Tesla ride-hailing network".

What Tesla failed to mention was that the Standard Range Plus was now open for ordering in several new markets in Europe and China. "We're making these changes to ensure that our online order process is focused exclusively on the three Model 3 variants customers want most".

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The electric automaker has removed the Model 3 Standard from its online ordering menu.

According to Tesla, it noticed the slightly pricier Standard Plus variant (with 386km range) was selling at over six times the rate of the Standard Range model, and therefore chose to "simplify our production operations to better optimise cost, minimise complexity and streamline operations".

This means that the car's hardware is exactly the same Standard Plus, but it's missing features like "onboard music streaming service, navigation with live traffic visualization, and heated seats". Buyers can choose any Model 3 variant with annual mileage options of 10,000, 12,000 or 15,000.

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The move mirrors how Tesla handled orders for the short-lived base 40-kwh Model S in 2012. Tesla said the option to lease a Model 3 is now open to USA customers with a small down payment and competitive monthly payments.

What just happened? Tesla said that since introducing the Standard and Standard Plus editions last quarter, the premium model has outsold the Standard more than six to one. Buyers do have the option to unlock those features at a later date, though, essentially upgrading the vehicle from Standard Range to Standard Range Plus.

But online customers will no longer be able to order the Model 3 Standard for $35,000, a long-promised price for a vehicle that has been seen as essential to Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk's ambition to disrupt the auto industry. A Standard Range Plus Model 3 without any options nets a $504 per month payment for 36 months, 10,000 miles, and $3,000 down.

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