Tesla has released the long-anticipated, redesigned Model 3 with a sharper appearance and a range of new features in China, although at RMB 259,900 ($35,809), its starting price is higher than expected, according to a poll published on Friday on the Chinese Twitter-like social media platform Weibo.

Why it matters: The US automaker’s pricing strategy for the revamped sedan had attracted enormous attention from Chinese customers prior to its announcement, due to the car’s significant success in the electric vehicle market and Tesla’s recent policy of price cuts in the country.

  • Although the launch price is not as low as some were expecting, the revamped Model 3’s arrival has still caused some rival EV makers to announce new deals for Chinese drivers. Xpeng Motors reacted immediately on Friday by offering zero-interest financing for up to 24 months or a price reduction of RMB 10,000 to buyers of its P7i. New owners of the electric sedan, priced from RMB 249,900, will be given a RMB 6,000 Dynaudio audio system for free by the end of this month. 

Details: In a poll conducted on social media site Weibo on Friday, more than 15,000 out of roughly 21,000 respondents said that they would not consider buying the newly-designed Model 3 due to “insufficient budget or an overly expensive price tag” (our translation). 

  • Roughly 3,400 participants expressed their intention to purchase the new Tesla as of writing, attracted by a “competitive price or new features.” The poll was released on Friday morning by Chinese internet portal Sina, the parent company of Weibo. 
  • The new Model 3 would “have no equal” if it were priced at around RMB 200,000, yet some domestic brands are more attractive at the RMB 260,000 price range, a Weibo user with the handle Kejigangzi in Chinese Pinyin commented in one highly-upvoted response. 
  • In an announcement posted by Tesla on its official Weibo account, some internet users spoke critically of the car’s pricing not meeting their expectations, stating that they would be waiting for the price to go down. 
  • The EV giant on Friday launched the reworked mainstream premium sedan in rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive versions, priced from RMB 259,900 and RMB 285,900, respectively, compared with its previous base-version Model 3 at a price tag of RMB 231,900. 
  • The revamp comes after Model 3’s initial launch back in 2016, and sees an improvement in driving range from 556 to 567 kilometers (352 miles) for the baseline version. The all-wheel drive version has a driving range of 680 km, reportedly powered by a new Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) battery sourced from CATL. 
  • The all-new Model 3 gets a 15.4-inch infotainment screen, slightly larger than the 15 inch one seen in the previous version, in addition to an eight inch display for rear passengers. It also introduces new features and equipment such as ambient interior lights and ventilated seats. 
  • However, the updated Model 3 removes a physical shifter, replacing it with an automatic system that may ask users to activate gear shifting on the touchscreen, a feature unfamiliar to Chinese EV owners, an analyst who asked not to be named told TechNode. 

Context: Tesla initially began selling locally-made Model 3s in China at a starting price of RMB 355,800 in late 2019. The company shipped 412,805 units of the vehicle from its Shanghai facility during 2020-2022, making it the best-selling premium electric sedan in the world’s biggest EV market, according to figures from the China Passenger Car Association. 

  • Tesla sparked an EV price war in China at the beginning of 2023 when it slashed prices across its range. The carmaker announced significant price cuts for the Model 3 and Model Y lineup in China on Jan. 6, with the Model 3’s starting price dropping RMB 36,000 ($5,314) to RMB 229,900, and the Model Y dropping RMB 29,000 to start at RMB 259,900.

READ MORE:  China EV price war: Xpeng, Huawei-backed Aito join Tesla in cutting prices

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. Connect with her via e-mail: jill.shen@technode.com or Twitter: @yushan_shen