Tesla announces cheaper Model 3, but it's still not $35,000

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The vehicle will offer a driving range of 260 miles, which is about 50 miles lesser than the long-range battery variant.

Earlier this week Tesla revealed a freaky new referral programme that rewards owners by sending an image of their choice "etched in glass" to deep space.

Tesla unexpectedly announced a mid-range battery option for the Model 3, bringing the price of the vehicle down to $45,000 and completely changing the pricing structure. This is not the long-awaited $35,000 version, however; the mid-range Model 3 starts at $45,000. The mid-range version will cost $45,000 as against the $49,000 of the earlier vehicle. A report that claimed that, at the time, over 35,000 Tesla owners opted to pay the additional fees for the "Full Self-Driving" option. Now customers can only purchase the company's driver-assist system, Enhanced Autopilot. CEO Elon Musk recently noted that focusing on the cheaper auto first would cause Tesla to "die," because it's not profitable to make.

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The midrange model is basically a long-range model with fewer cells in its battery pack, offering slightly slower acceleration and a lower top speed compared to the long-range model: a 0-60 miles per hour sprint takes 5.6 seconds instead of 4.5 seconds, and top speed is 125 miles per hour instead of 145. Until this week, Tesla had indicated a version with a smaller battery wouldn't go into high-volume production until the first quarter of 2019.

Tesla previously promised that the Model 3's base price will start at $35,000, but drivers were disappointed with the $49,000 price tag that was revealed when the auto was launched. This new mid-range version of the Model 3 gives Tesla a way to lower the vehicle's price slightly while expanding its addressable market to a wider audience. However, Tesla's ambitious $35,000 base version is nowhere to be seen due to production issues.

The release of a lower-priced Model 3 was a "logical next step", according to Evercore ISI analyst Arndt Ellinghorst.

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Owners wanting to send their photos to space will need to upload the desired snap onto the Tesla mobile app before December of this year.

The Model 3 is Tesla's first lower-cost, high-volume vehicle. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Tesla.

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