The Tesla Model 3 is the world’s top-selling electric sedan, and to keep the winning formula going strong the carmaker pulled the covers off a revised version in China on Friday.
This is the first change that the Elon Musk owned company has made to its mass-market car line-up since it launched its global best-seller, the Model Y, in 2020.
Interestingly, when the original Model 3 was revealed in 2016, it was tipped for South African introduction, but those plans have since been shelved as Elon Musk feels our import duties for EVs are too high. So for now at least, the Tesla Model 3 will remain forbidden fruit for local EV fans.
Tesla said it would debut the new Model 3 at a trade fair in Beijing on Saturday and some of its new features, including a rear display for back-seat passengers, appeared to be aimed at Chinese car buyers.
Tesla said the new model for China also featured a better acoustic system, more comfortable interior and additional airbags. Images of the exterior showed small changes that gave the sedan a sleeker front, including new headlights, while the rear is set apart by fresh C-shaped tail lamps.
The new Model 3 also promises a longer driving range. The standard version has a rated range of 606km. based on China's testing standards. That's about 9% higher than the base model it replaces in China.
Tesla did not provide any output figures for the motor but did release acceleration numbers, with the rear-drive base model said to be capable of a 6.1 seconds and the dual-motor version doing the deed in 4.4 seconds.
Tesla said it would also show the new model at the Munich auto show next week. German carmakers are expected to use that stage to announce a run of new EVs, partly in response to China's fast-shifting market. Those include a new version of the Volkswagen ID.7 and a new electric CLA concept sedan from Mercedes.
Reuters first reported last November that Tesla was developing a revamped Model 3 in a project codenamed "Highland". People involved in the project said it was aimed at cutting production costs and boosting the model's appeal.
Tesla did not give any details about the new Model 3's battery, but a person with knowledge of the features said it was the same lithium-iron phosphate (LFP) battery from CATL for the base model.
The higher range is the result of taking weight out and improving the car's profile so it faces less wind resistance, the person added. There was no immediate comment from Tesla about the battery.
Big in China
Tesla's China sales increased almost 49% in the first half, compared to a low base in 2022 when Covid lockdowns disrupted production and sales. Model Y sales were more than double sales for Model 3 in that period.
Tesla said it had started taking orders for the new Model 3 and would begin deliveries in China in the fourth quarter. It also began taking reservations for the new car in other markets where it exports from Shanghai, including the Middle East, Japan and Australia.
In China, the new Model 3 starts at 259,900 yuan (around R675 000). This is about 12% higher than the previous base rear-wheel drive model.
Interestingly, Tesla recently cut the prices of its larger Model S and Model X premium models in the US and China.
While raising the base price on the Model 3 could help protect margins, the price cuts for its higher-end models underscored the continued pressure that EV makers face, particularly in China where Tesla sparked a price war with its Chinese rivals earlier this year.
IOL & Reuters