2019 Tesla Model 3.
2019 Tesla Model 3.

Tesla’s latest price shock as autopilot now standard

TESLA is planning for a driverless future.

The maker announced today that its controversial Autopilot feature would be made standard across the range.

The option, previously $4300, doesn't do as much as its name suggests but the driver assistant tech will accelerate, brake and steer the car in its lane automatically. However, a driver is responsible for maintaining control of the car at all times.

The introduction of Autopilot as standard raises the price of Teslas by several thousand dollars but the price of the technology has been reduced by about a third in US. This means most models should have a price rise of about $3000 locally.

Tesla also announced that it would be harder to buy the newly introduced entry-level $US35,000 ($49,000) Model 3 Standard Range.

Potential buyers will no longer be able to buy the cheapest Tesla online but instead will have to call or visit one of its stores.

The rationale behind the move to removing online sales of the brand's cheapest car is that it was outsold six to one by the next version up the ladder - the Standard Range Plus.

And to simplify production operations the Standard range will now be a software limited version of the Standard Plus. This means it will be the same car but several features will be disabled via software including navigation and heated seats and range will be restricted by 10 per cent.

Standard Range version buyers will have the option of upgrading to the Plus at a later stage and current owners of the Plus can downgrade if they wish, with the difference in price refunded.

The cheapest Tesla Model 3 version has been removed from online sales.
The cheapest Tesla Model 3 version has been removed from online sales.

Tesla has also removed the mid-tier Model 3 long-distance rear-wheel drive version from online sales.

The move is a curious one considering Tesla recently announced it would be closing all stores and focusing solely on online sales. The brand quickly backflipped and decided to close 10 and 30 per cent of stores, with the focus still on online sales.

And the initial move to online sales only was to reduce costs so that Tesla could afford to sell the long-awaited Model 3 Standard Range in the first place.

But Tesla has been pushing to increase profitability since it broke through the 5000 a week Model 3 production threshold and the move to bundle the previously optional Autopilot feature into the standard cost of a vehicle is just the brand's most recent strategy.

Tesla has cleared the order backlog for the Model 3 in the US sufficiently to open up the vehicle to lease customers. However, they won't be able to buy the vehicle at the end of the agreement because of the maker's driverless fleet ambitions.

A Tesla statement said: "With full autonomy coming in the future via an over-the-air software update, we plan to use those vehicles in the Tesla ride-hailing network."