SAN FRANCISCO: Tesla Inc. plans to expand its lineup in China by offering a locally built Model 3 sedan with a longer driving range from as early as this week, according to people familiar with the matter.
The vehicle would have a range of more than 650km on one charge, compared with about 450km for the current most basic version that starts at 323,800 yuan (RM199,000), the people said, asking not to be identified as the information isn’t public.
The variant would start at about 350,000 yuan (RM216,000) before rebates, though exact pricing has yet to be decided, they said.
A longer range could help Tesla fend off competition from the likes of Volkswagen AG and BMW AG, who are also bringing out new electrified models in China. Carmakers are betting on new vehicles to spur demand in a market hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
The longer-range Model 3, like the existing cheaper version, would qualify for electric-vehicle subsidies and is exempt from China’s car purchase tax.
Tesla representatives didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Registrations of Tesla vehicles have fallen for two consecutive months in China, showing the US carmaker isn’t immune to the broader auto-industry slump.
The slowdown has come amid Tesla’s multibillion-dollar push to expand in the world’s biggest electric-vehicle market.
Yet Tesla’s factory in China has recovered from a virus-related shutdown better than many in the industry, helped by aid from local authorities.
After resuming operations on Feb 10, the Shanghai plant — Tesla’s only outside the US — has surpassed the capacity it had before the shutdown, reaching a weekly production of 3,000 cars, the company said last month.