Will This New Tesla Be the First One Everyone Can Afford?

Tesla has shown off what may be its next vehicle—and it looks small and affordable.

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It’s more than safe to say that Tesla has revolutionized the market for electric vehicles. The Model 3, in particular, has shown how large the demand is for a capable, affordable electric car. But even the Model 3 is not that affordable. Currently, the cheapest barebones Model 3 you can buy starts at $39,990. (Teslas are no longer eligible for a federal tax credit.) Plan on spending at least $48,990 if you want all-wheel-drive, as many people do nowadays.

But could a smaller, more affordable Tesla that more buyers could afford be in the works?

By this point, pretty much everyone has seen Elon Musk getting his groove on in China earlier this month. But he also made an important announcement: Tesla is not just setting up a Gigafactory in China as it has long promised to do, but also plans to build a design and engineering center in China to produce “an original car for worldwide consumption.”

Tesla followed that announcement up by sharing a preliminary sketch of what looks like a small Tesla hatchback (not dissimilar in basic form to the Genesis Mint concept) on its WeChat account.

Back in June 2018, Musk shared plans at a shareholder meeting to have a Tesla compact car in production in less than five years, presumably to compete with the Volkswagen ID.3 and the Hyundai Kona Electric. That timeline would have that new car arriving by mid-2023.

Of course, Musk promised to have fully autonomous Tesla robotaxis on the road somewhere by 2020, which seems extremely doubtful. Plus, Tesla already has the Model Y, CyberTruck, Roadster and Semi in the pipeline. This could turn out to be a situation much like those vehicles, where Tesla unveils a concept well before the vehicle is ready to enter production.

But here’s hoping this compact Tesla doesn’t spend too long waiting in the wings. If EVs are to succeed, the world needs cheaper ones — fast.

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