Tesla begins sales of cheapest yet Model 3 car variant in China

FILE PHOTO: People walk past a showroom outside Tesla China headquarters at China Central Mall in Beijing, China July 11, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - U.S. electric vehicle (EV) maker Tesla Inc on Friday said it has started taking orders in China for a lower-priced version of its Model 3 car, as it seeks to expand its lineup and boost sales in the world’s biggest EV market.

The California-based firm said in a statement that Chinese customers can now order a standard range Model 3 variant whose starting price of 377,000 yuan ($56,167) will make it the cheapest version of the car in China.

The model will be equipped with Tesla’s Autopilot assisted driving function, the automaker said.

Tesla has been adjusting prices of its U.S.-made cars in China to remain affordable in the country, a move also aimed at fending off competition from a swathe of domestic EV startups such as Nio Inc, Byton and XPeng Motors.

Previously, the starting price for a Model 3 in China was 407,000 yuan for a rear-wheel-drive long range version with no Autopilot.

Tesla currently imports all the cars it sells in China. It is building a factory in Shanghai that will initially manufacture Model 3 cars.

Reporting by Yilei Sun and Brenda Goh; Editing by Christopher Cushing