Industry watchers have confirmed that photos of a Model Y atop a flatbed truck on a highway in China was made at Tesla’s Gigafactory 3 in Shanghai.
The Model Y – US-made versions of which Tesla started delivering from Fremont in March – has been available for pre-order in China for some time.
It is priced in the US from $US49,990 ($A69,412 converted) and is available to pre-order in China from RMB 488,000 ($A98,185 converted). Its price in Australia is not yet known, but some estimates have put it at $A100,000 after import costs, luxury car tax, local currency conversions and other fees are taken into account.
Speculation sparked off late Friday that Tesla has already commenced making its latest electric car at its Shanghai factory, which it opened in late 2019, after the photos were sent to Tesla blog Tesmanian.
Chinese Tesla commentator “Ray4Tesla” then confirmed via Twitter that his sources said this vehicle has indeed been made in China.
Just confirmed with an EV industry watcher in China the test vehicle in the report blow is indeed MIC Model Y. At this pace, we could possibly see deliveries in December or even sooner. https://t.co/VTSvYIYhPL
— Ray4️⃣Tesla⚡️🚘☀️🔋 (@ray4tesla) August 29, 2020
Given that the Model Y in question is covered in camouflage, it is likely that this vehicle will be used for local homologation purposes.
The report comes as it was revealed via Chinese social media site Weibo that Tesla had commenced production of single-piece rear castings for the Model Y in Fremont, as reported by The Driven on Wednesday.
Tesla is making the rear casting for the Model Y using a ground breaking “Giga Press”, which will allow the car maker to greatly improve production efficiency, and lower weight and manufacturing costs for the electric crossover by reducing the number of pieces needed to make its body.
As reported on Wednesday, Tesla CEO and co-founder Elon Musk has shared previously that Tesla has ordered two such Giga Presses – one for Fremont and one for Shanghai.
It was not clear if the made-in-China Model Y spotted in the wild was made using this machine in Shanghai, or if the machine is ready to be put to use for manufacturing.
Tesla China VP Grace Tao, however did hint that this may soon be the case.
In mid-August, Tesla China shared a post from Tao via its Weibo account. In it she said (loosely translated from Chinese): “Spend time and energy on meaningful things, and the casting revolution begins. Tesla’s “sacred beast” uses the latest aluminum casting process, which reduces the number of casting parts for Tesla Model Y from 70 to 4, and then to 1. At the same time, the structural stability of the body is greatly improved.”
Not exactly solid information, but it does all fall in line with Tesla’s plan to start delivering the made-in-China Model 3 in early 2021.
The real question for Australia however, is when will Tesla open pre-orders for the Model Y to local drivers.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.