Tesla has once again been snapped testing an updated version of the top-selling Model 3 electric sedan ahead of its potential reveal at the company’s Investor Day on March 1.
There are a couple of differences though, with the most obvious being the alloy wheel design which appears slightly different to the ones currently on offer.
It’s unclear if these are the wheels for the entry-level model and are intended to have aerodynamic covers put on to complete the look. They could also be prototype wheels like a number of manufacturers use during prototype testing.
The other, subtler change is the the side indicator and camera housing appears to be slightly longer than the current unit. This potentially reveals an early look into Tesla’s Hardware 4.0 changes which are expected to include higher-resolution cameras for the driver assist systems.
At this stage it’s unclear what the rest of the update for the Model 3 holds.
A 2022 report from Automotive News suggested there would be upgrades to the exterior and powertrain, and a “less complex” cabin.
Along with keeping the Model 3 fresh in the face of strong new competition, the update is reportedly aimed at making the car cheaper and easier for Tesla to produce.
It’s not clear how Tesla will simplify the cabin of the Model 3 given it has barely any switchgear, and most functions are controlled through the central touchscreen.
A 2021 update subbed the USB-A ports for USB-C ones, and brought a restyled centre console with two wireless phone chargers and extra storage.
Tesla enthusiast Chris Zheng speculated on Twitter the wooden trim section of the dashboard will be replaced with a bonded foam fabric material instead.
As recently reported, Tesla is reportedly halting some production at its Shanghai facility until the end of this month as it makes alterations for the updated Model 3.
As reported by Bloomberg, Tesla has reportedly been upgrading the production lines at the Shanghai factory in stages over the last two months.
People familiar with the matter told Bloomberg deliveries of the updated Tesla Model 3 are expected to commence later in the year. It’s worth noting Australian-market versions of the Model 3 are sourced from this Shanghai plant.
Tesla doesn’t follow the traditional product lifecycles of vehicles from legacy automakers.
Its Model S for example, has been in production for over a decade now and, though it has received various running changes over its lifecycle, its exterior has received only the mildest of updates.
The Model 3 hasn’t been in production as long, but it did go on sale in 2017. While it has received tweaks and over-the-air updates since then, including the detail interior changes, its exterior styling is essentially unchanged.
Its age hasn’t held the Model 3 back in Australia, however. It was the third-best selling vehicle overall in January 2023, and was the best-selling passenger car ahead of traditional favourites such as the Toyota Corolla.
The Model 3 drove overall electric vehicles sales to a 5.7 per cent total market share for January.
MORE: Everything Tesla Model 3