Tesla launches Model 3 lease, makes $35K edition 'off-menu'

Autopilot is now bundled as a standard feature, raising base prices by $2,000.

Tesla is apparently moving to retire the $35,000 entry-level Model 3 before shipping the first units, though Autopilot comes standard and customers can now lease the car.

Apparently addressing controversy over Autopilot price cuts, Tesla has decided to simply bundle the feature as a standard safety feature across its entire lineup. "Full Self-Driving Capability" still remains a $5,000 upgrade option, however, and is still only partially functional.

"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," the company says. "Autopilot also dramatically improves the quality of the driving experience, especially in heavy traffic, as thousands of our customers frequently describe online."

The cheapest Model 3 available on Tesla's website is now the Standard Plus edition with 240 miles of software-limited range, selling for $39,500 with basic Autopilot included. Previously, the same package had fetched $40,500 with Autopilot added.

"Given the popularity of the Standard Plus relative to the Standard, we have made the decision to simplify our production operations to better optimize cost, minimize complexity and streamline operations," Tesla says.

The company is keeping the $35,000 option as an "off-menu" item for the time being. It will be a software-limited version of the Standard Plus, with 10-percent lower range, no heated seats, disabled music streaming and other downgrades. The announcement did not confirm if or when the off-menu package will be formally discontinued.

The leasing option is available for all Model 3 variants with annual mileage caps of 10,000 to 15,000 miles. The company warns that customers who choose leasing will not have the option to buy the car at the end of the term, as the vehicles will be used for Tesla's ride-hailing network.

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