Tesla releases a $35,000 Model 3 after rebates

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Tesla chief Elon Musk said late Thursday that the automaker was preparing to sell the cheapest version yet of its newest electric auto, the Model 3, signalling an attempt to get back to business after months of controversy.

With an estimated range of 260 miles, the mid-range ride has a battery with fewer cells than those in Tesla's previous versions of the Model 3.

Bottom line: Tesla is inching closer to offering its promised $35,000 Model 3 but we're not quite there yet.

Tesla customers won't get the full $7,500 federal tax credit starting in 2019 as the company hit a sales threshold that cuts the incentive by 50 percent in the first half of the new year, and then again six months later.

The owner of the vehicle is unknown - but they just might be the most practical person in Zimbabwe - certainly more practical than property tycoon Frank Buyanga, who recently imported a $2 million Bugatti Veyron.

Hitting that $35,000 price target is important, because the federal tax incentives - worth up to $7,500 per vehicle - are due to start dwindling in January.

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The $45,000 Model 3 will also lack advanced Autopilot functionality, which would cost another $5,000, and will stick to rear wheel drive as opposed to the all-wheel-drive option for the mid-range.

In New York, the $2,000 subsidy would get the price for the new Model 3 to $35,500 for buyers who meet the December 31 deadline. The Model 3 state rebate is $2,500 in California and $5,000 in CT.

Elon Musk took to Twitter (where else, right?) on Thursday evening to inform his followers of a new addition to the Model 3 lineup. But Tesla has struggled to ramp up production on the Model 3 and initially focused on making the higher-end versions. It should offer around 220 miles of range.

After 200,000 units, Tesla must phase out the tax credit.

While the electric-car maker was always expected to announce a less expensive variant of the Model 3, there's been no discussion of a mid-range version that would come in between Tesla's long-range and promised standard-battery versions.

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