By on March 26, 2019


Few — if any — journalists cover Tesla with the same dogged determination as former TTAC managing editor Ed Niedermeyer, and he’s just shed light on a perplexing mystery: The case of the missing Standard Range Model 3.

We’re talking about the base, $35,000 Model 3 promised at the model’s launch three years ago. The vehicle Tesla finally opened orders for in February, apparently after working some magic that made the long-awaited variant’s appearance financially viable. It seems that not only are would-be owners still waiting, but Tesla is doing its damndest to sway them from the purchase.

You can read more at The Drive. The Standard Range Model 3, accompanied by a “Plus” model that boosts range from 220 miles to 240, was expected to begin reaching customers in two to four weeks after Tesla’s announcement, but those deliveries were later pushed back.

Amid a flurry of across-the-board pricing changes, workforce culls, and general retail confusion at Tesla, customers have taken to numerous online forums to complain of further delays sent to their phones via text message. These ones come without a specific date or timeline attached. On top of that, some customers report Tesla attempting to upsell them to a pricier model over the phone.


Given the company’s current state of flux, one wonders just how financially viable the Standard Range Model 3 actually is. Doubts existed before this, what with the model’s release coinciding with the move to an online sales model and subsequent retail store closures. While those closures were soon pared back, the subsequent price increase applied to all Tesla models omitted the Standard Range Model 3.

As more and more customers take to forums and social media to vent their frustrations, it appears as though literally no one has taken delivery of a Standard Range model. Standard Range Plus, yes, but the cheapest Tesla — the EV for the masses — remains a ghost. Some customers call the automaker’s actions a “bait and switch.”

It’s possible there’s a delivery jogjam in need of clearing, or, just as possible, the company has yet to build any of the Standard Range models. At some point, it has to, regardless of what it anticipates the demand will be.

[Image: Tesla]

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40 Comments on “The Curious Case of the Missing Model 3...”

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    “Some customers call the automaker’s actions a “bait and switch.””

    Those customers would be correct.

    • 0 avatar

      The classic bait-and-switch routine still lives! Speaking of scams, what are the hottest things in Tesla’s F&I department?

      • 0 avatar

        Classic bait-and switch….the classic “Low Ball”, perfected by scummy car dealers decades ago. Musk never intended to build or deliver a $35K model.

        And the F&I Dept at Tesla is pounding….Polyglycoat, Scotchguard and Rustproofing….$5,000 for the full package + installation fees.

      • 0 avatar

        Of course it does.

        Had a Honda dealer in New Orleans (pretty decent drive away) promise over the phone that we could get a new leftover 2018 Accord for $21k “out the door”, discounted from $24k sale price. Oh, but we drive several hours there, and suddenly there are fees for this and that and this and oh look, we’re at $24,800 out the door. Jackasses. He (salesman) sat down with that, I looked at her (friend buying a car) and said “let’s go”. We got up and walked out. On our way to the door “I may can get $300 knocked off IF the manager will waive the x fee”. We kept walking.

        She did end up with a 2018 Accord, 12k miles for $21k at another Honda dealer. Absolutely loves the car. After a week driving it to college (about a 45 minutes to an hour drive each way) and work (20 minutes), its averaging 38.8 mpg. Coming from a 2012 Altima, shes in heaven.

  • avatar

    This is reminiscent of my wait for the LR AWD. I plunked down my $2,500 on June 30th and “promptly” got delivery on October 25th.

    First off the end of the tent assembly line was Performance LR AWD vehicles. Those could be had much more quickly. The LR AWD simply wasn’t made until the performance backlog was pared back. You could order the LR AWD, you just couldn’t get it.

    This is a similar situation.

    Similar but not the same.

    My local showroom advised me to let my friends and family know they have a good quantity of inventory vehicles, Standard Range Plus in Blue or White for immediate delivery. Inventory vehicles are exempt from the recent price hike until the end of the quarter. Tesla are pushing the sales through their showrooms using staff that they threatened to fire. Maybe the staff aren’t all that motivated anymore. Just a guess.

    Tesla have made a boat load of SR+ vehicles and were over optimistic how many people actually wanted this variant. A variant that didn’t exist until very recently, whereas the performance M3 was long awaited and desired.

    Tesla will want to get rid of the SR+ model out of inventory before making SR vehicles.

    They are not reniging, they are following their past pattern of expensive variants first, cheaper variants later.

    SR M3 customers will have a frustrating wait, but will be fulfilled. Eventually.

    • 0 avatar

      How long should customers wait? Years? If Tesla wasn’t ready to build SRs they shouldn’t have taken orders for them and promised delivery dates. A company in such a precarious financial position shouldn’t be testing the patience of everyone who gives them money (customers and investors).

      Won’t be long before competent auto manufacturers enter the M3 SR’s space with compelling EVs of their own.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s sounds kinda like a ponzi scheme. They have to take new orders in order to pay for the cars they are building, because they are selling them in an unprofitable manner. This collapses when future demand becomes less than current production rates.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX


        “Won’t be long before competent auto manufacturers enter the M3 SR’s space with compelling EVs of their own.”

        Gotta challenge this statement. There are three reasons mfrs aren’t competing in this space today, and/or won’t for a long time:

        1. They don’t want to lose money. If a $35k EV with 220-mile range was profitable, everyone would do it. Honestly, Tesla has the most expertise in this area, and they’re showing how difficult it is to be profitable at this price point. Remember that the Bolt and Leaf are low volume by comparison, and they’re still receiving full Federal subsidies. Few people would want to pay full fare for those cars.

        2. Batteries are hard to source in volume. The much-heralded Kona EV recently saw a falloff in sales due to battery shortages, and it remains a non-50-state compliance car. The mfrs need Gigafactories to back up any serious claims of EV production or competition to Tesla. My Ioniq EV is a wonderful little car, but it may be the only one in PA since I had to import it from MD. With its 124-mile range and low volume, it’s no competitor to the Model 3. But it is better made and has gauges.

        3. Selling EVs is hard. Toyota has virtually no EV program because it’s simply easier and more profitable to sell Camrys and Corollas.

        Other reasons abound, including questions about depreciation, dealer markup and servicing, charging infrastructure, and government policies.

        • 0 avatar

          “The mfrs need Gigafactories ”

          no they don’t. Tesla did the Gigafactory because they *had to,* no battery manufacturer was going to make that kind of investment on their behalf. if the BEV market truly is going to be much bigger than a few hundred thousand Elon Musk worshippers, the battery manufacturers will increase their capacity to supply the industry.

          The evidence isn’t there yet that the market is much bigger than the Elon Musk Fan Club.

          • 0 avatar
            SCE to AUX


            As you know, part of the market is real, and part of it is contrived (mandated).

            Nearly all Tesla sales are to people with real interest in the vehicle, and so I don’t think the fading of Federal subsidies will hurt them much. Tesla has created its own market with their products.

            The balance (20%) of the EV market is a mix of compliance (mandated) vehicles (Ioniq EV) and quasi-competitive vehicles (I-Pace, Bolt). Countless mfrs are claiming they want to compete in the EV space, or against Tesla directly. I have no doubt they can build a better car, but there is no way they can produce more of them without a massive battery supply.

            There are promises of large battery factories in the future, but Tesla has already lapped the field with their production capacity and market penetration. The *only* way to beat Tesla at this point is to go all in, and only (maybe) VW is showing that kind of interest.

  • avatar

    Since Tesla was going to make a loss on the $35K base Model 3, it’s no surprise that they are neither encouraging its sale nor rushing its production.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s not the customer’s fault that Tesla can’t do a BOM on the $35k base Model 3. They’ve basically given the middle finger to the faithful who put in their $1k deposit 3 years ago, with the hope of getting the $7500 tax credit.

      Now all of the fanboys basically say “well Tesla needs to survive, so it’s not a problem if the SR orders are put at the end of the line”. Well why in the heck did they even take reservations for the base model?

      Since those reservation holders have been thrown under the bus, it makes one wonder why they even did it at all. They probably believed what Musk said, which was their first mistake.

      At least with the Model wh(Y), they aren’t even taking the $2500 deposit (?) for the base model but they’ve already raised the price. Amazing.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t think Tesla is planning to take a loss on the cheaper cars.

      My read on the situation is that they rushed the production line into service, but are constantly tweaking it to reduce costs over time.

      So, the plan is to make the most expensive cars first, while they gradually reduce production costs. If they’re lucky, the expensive cars will keep the production line busy while they reduce costs to the point where the cheap cars are also profitable. In other words, if everything works out according to plan, all of the cars will be profitable.

      This is like an Agile/DevOps approach to manufacturing, as opposed to the “get it right the first time” (“waterfall”) approach the old guard uses (because they have the experience and capital to pull it off).

      • 0 avatar

        That’s like excusing China from sanctions for polluting because it’s still a “developing nation”.

        The excuse is good in perpetuity.

        • 0 avatar

          I was explaining, not excusing.

          Tesla is a Silicon Valley company. I’ve worked with/for SV companies before, and people who haven’t are kind of mystified by the way SV companies behave.

          Tesla is at a point where it’s time to bring in some adult supervision to stabilize them. They’re at the point where customers are going to expect them to act like a mature company.

      • 0 avatar

        “This is like an Agile/DevOps approach to manufacturing,”

        which is in and of itself pants-on-head stupid. Lead times for hard tools (esp. stamping) are far too long and far too costly to be constantly changing them.

  • avatar

    yep. they know they can’t make money on it, so here comes the upsell.

    • 0 avatar

      and I forgot to add that there are about 250 S, X, and Performance Model 3s sitting at an obscure lot in the mall next to me – and the dealership 4 miles away from me is stuffed with the same.

      • 0 avatar

        I thought Tesla had a huge backlog of M3 orders, so why are they building cars for inventory? Why are they encouraging new customers to buy a car from inventory rather than order it the way they want it? Could it be that they don’t have a backlog of orders, and are just building cars to keep the line moving? Could it be they have a lot of unsold cars in inventory and can’t afford to make cheap M3s?

  • avatar

    There’s no mystery here. Tesla always builds and delivers the most expensive cars first.

    Doing anything else would be leaving money on the table — both because they want to lock in the most profitable sales ASAP, and because production costs presumably are reduced over time (which means the cheaper cars will be more profitable when they are eventually made). It also may nudge some buyers to pay more than they would otherwise, which also leads to greater profits. These are all ways to charge what the traffic will bear and maximize profits, without resorting to dealer-style haggling on each car.

    So, the $35k cars will be delivered as soon as the demand for the more expensive cars is reduced enough that they have time on the assembly line to make the cheaper cars.

    There is no mystery here — it’s just a naked display of Tesla’s economic self interest, made a bit d!ckish by Silicon Valley-style customer service.

  • avatar

    I would assume that what this is, is Tesla trying to bolster the best sales look for the quarter about to close by prioritorising the delivery of higher priced cars they artificially created demand for by announcing a price increase ineffective early April.

  • avatar

    I’d me more concerned about how this was communicated. What reputable company sends grammatically incorrect text messages as a consumer update? Those messages look like spam from overseas hackers. I’d never take this seriously. Wow…..

    • 0 avatar

      Sadly, that’s what passes for literacy among globalized “knowledge workers” these days.

      Most Tesla customers wouldn’t notice; fewer still would care.

    • 0 avatar

      Absolutely. Looks exactly like the same guy who emails or texts you when you respond to a craigslist ad for a perfect, low-mileage, one-owner 2015 Camry for $1,627 that’s advertised hundreds of times in hundreds of different cities.

  • avatar

    BEVs, such as those Tesla manufactures, are good examples of products that should remain vaporware instead of being launched onto the market.

  • avatar

    After looking at all the options and choices, I can’t understand why anyone would want a base Model 3. You seem to get so much more by stepping up a bit

    • 0 avatar

      Lol, why does anybody buy a $35k car? We’re all super rich and nothing is stopping us, so why dont we all buy Lexus LSs instead of Camrys? You get so much more with the Lexus. All these penny-pinching rich people (everyone) need to just pony up for the expensive model and quit complaining.

  • avatar

    How many base models do you find at any dealership? Very few. The more expensive models are ordered first. The same thing is going on here. The base model seems to exist only to justify the bait and switch $110 Lease!! ads you see on dealership TV commercials. Yes, the base model exits. Good luck finding one.

    • 0 avatar

      The Model 3 has been available for months. Base models are often real these days. It isn’t like when base meant no A/C, no right side mirror, no rear window defroster, no carpet, etc… Go to a Honda dealer and count the LX model Civics, Accords and CR-Vs.

      • 0 avatar

        Years ago my old boss insisted on seeing the loss-leader car from the ad, hidden behind the service center under a tarp. It was a black Camry, plastic wheel covers on steelies, no options. She wanted leather and a sunroof but was too cheap to step up to a better trim like a good consumer, and finally the dealer relented and agreed to install an aftermarket sunroof and leather with an out the door price still way less than anything else on the lot. I still don’t know quite how she pulled it off, but imagine Matlock in a dress and you’ve got her basic MO.

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