Tesla takes $35,000 Model 3 sales offline, but adds 3-year lease plan for its smallest car

Tesla will no longer sell its entry-level $35,000 Standard Range Model 3 online, and will instead require interested customers to call or visit a store to order one.

The sedans will also be delivered with the higher capacity battery pack of the Standard Range Plus model, but with a software restriction that limits their range from 240 to 220 miles. Original and subsequent owners will be able to pay to have the additional range unlocked at any time.

(Tesla)

Tesla said the move was largely due to the fact that the Plus has been outselling the Standard Range by a factor of 6 to 1. Limiting the number of battery pack sizes it offers helps streamlines production, and the company has used a similar strategy several times previously to update the Model S and X lineups.

TESLA MODEL Y DEBUTS WITH $39,000 BASE PRICE

The Model Y utility vehicle shares a platform with the Model 3.

The Model Y utility vehicle shares a platform with the Model 3. (Tesla)

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. Tesla’s release on the changes said that "all Tesla vehicles now come with Autopilot bundled as a standard feature," but Fox News Autos has confirmed that the feature is not active on the $35,000 version of the Model 3.

The rear-wheel-drive Long Range Model 3 has also been removed from the website and joins the Standard Range Model 3 as an off-menu model that must be ordered in-store or on the phone.

Along with the lineup changes, Tesla announced its first leasing program for the Model 3, which requires a $3,000 down payment, but does not allow leases to buy their car at the end of the 36-month term. That’s because Tesla is planning to use them for an autonomous ride-hailing service it expects to have up and running by then, which will also allow owners to hire out their vehicles when they are not using them.

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