Tesla announced a number of changes to its Model 3 lineup on Thursday night. Among them, the electric-car maker is removing the $35,000 version of the car from its website.
The most affordable “Standard” Model 3 can now only be ordered by phone, or in person at a Tesla store. The company cites customer demand for that change, saying the “Standard Plus” version of the Model 3 has sold at “more than six times the rate of Standard.”
The Model 3 Standard will be a “software-limited” version of the Standard Plus, with 10% less battery range than the Standard Plus.
The Long Range rear-wheel drive Model 3 will also require a phone call or a visit to a Tesla store for customers who want it.
That news follows Tesla’s move in February to close some of its retail locations in order to shift sales online. The company had walked that announcement back a bit after it took some of its employees by surprise. In March, CEO Elon Musk sent an email to employees to clarify that strategy, saying its most popular stores would “absolutely not be closed down,” while lower-volume locations would “gradually be closed down.”
In addition to the lineup changes, Tesla made Autopilot, its semi-autonomous-driving technology, a standard feature as part of an effort to make it less cost-prohibitive.
“For example, Model 3 Standard Plus used to cost $37,500, plus $3,000 for the Autopilot option. It now costs $39,500, with Autopilot included,” Tesla said in a press release Thursday night.
The company added: “We think including Autopilot is very important because our data strongly indicates that the chance of an accident is much lower when Autopilot is enabled.”
Tesla also highlighted what it says is positive customer feedback about the technology.
Autopilot as a standard feature is not as robust as the optional full self-driving capability, which Tesla offers as a $5,000 option.
With standard Autopilot, a Tesla vehicle can steer within its own lane in traffic, and accelerate and brake on its own. The full self-driving capability adds “Navigate on Autopilot,” which gives Teslas the ability to enter and exit freeways and merge onto freeway interchanges, and also drive around slower vehicles.
The self-driving option includes automatic lane changes, auto-park, and the summon feature.
As of Thursday, the Model 3 is also available for lease but, unlike a typical vehicle lease, customers will not have the option to purchase their cars at the end of the contract. That’s because Tesla plans to have those off-lease Model 3s join its self-driving ride-hailing fleet.
In 2016, Tesla made known its intention to operate such a fleet, but did not mention at the time that previously leased Model 3s would be used for the program.
Notably, those new details about the ride-hailing service come just hours after Uber filed for its initial public offering. Uber is developing its own fleet of self-driving vehicles. Lyft, Uber’s closest competitor that went public in late March, is doing the same.
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