Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed a new lower-priced Model 3 vehicle going on sale, but it's pricier than the much-anticipated model expected to run $35,000 before a tax break.
In the past, Musk had said the base price for a lower-cost Model 3 would be $35,000 before the federal $7,500 tax credit. That electric vehicle's battery would deliver an expected 220-mile range.
But this new model has a mid-range battery that allows the car to travel an estimated 260 miles on a battery charge, according to the Tesla web site. There it shows the base price of the Model 3 as $45,000. With the tax break and $4,300 in gasoline savings taken into account, the car's price drops to $34,400 with the destination and doc fee.
The new "lower cost, mid-range" Model 3, Musk said on Twitter, "costs $35k after federal & state tax rebates in California, but true cost of ownership is closer to $31k after gas savings."
Just released lower cost, mid-range Tesla Model 3 & super simple new order page https://t.co/cz0TQn7IOZ— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 18, 2018
The new vehicles with the mid-range battery are expected to be delivered in six to 10 weeks, according to the Tesla site.
Tesla's Model S and X vehicles, which can cost more than $100,000, have become status symbols. But the current Model 3, which typically runs about $55,000 out the door, has put the Palo Alto, California car maker on the radar of average car buyers.
Its move to make the lower-priced Model 3 available comes as Tesla has smoothed out its production line. During the third quarter, Tesla says it delivered 83,500 vehicles – more than 80 percent of the vehicles that the company delivered in all of 2017.
Costs $35k after federal & state tax rebates in California, but true cost of ownership is closer to $31k after gas savings— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 18, 2018
Its quarterly production of 80,142 vehicles during the three-month period was twice that of its previous high in the April-June quarter.
“As Model 3 production and sales continue to grow rapidly, we’ve achieved a steady volume in manufacturing capacity, allowing us to diversify our product offering to even more customers," Tesla said in a statement to USA TODAY. "Our new Mid-Range Battery is being introduced this week in the U.S. and Canada to better meet the varying range needs of the many customers eager to own Model 3, and our delivery estimate for customers who have ordered the Standard Battery is 4-6 months.”
Tesla's ability to release more economically-priced vehicles will likely increase its competitive stance among makers of other mid-sized premium sedans. Tesla has said its Model 3 in July outsold all other rivals combined (Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Jaguar and Lexus) in the U.S., capturing 52 percent of the mid-sized premium sedan segment overall.
During the July-September period in the U.S., the Silicon Valley upstart outsold Mercedes-Benz and could outsell BMW in the current quarter, according to an Atherton Research report in Forbes.
Tesla and Musk would like to focus on the business after a tumultuous few weeks. Musk recently agreed in a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission to leave his position as the company's chairman for three years and pay $20 million for making a "false and misleading'' statement when he tweeted Tesla had enough financing to go private.
Musk, who remains CEO, also caused a stir when he smoked what host Joe Rogan described as marijuana inside of tobacco a live video podcast interview.