The first shipment of Shanghai-made Tesla Model 3s has arrived in Australia, allowing a local comparison with a Fremont-made 2021 refresh delivered in late 2020.
The verdict from Tesla owner and Youtuber “Tesla Tom” Gan is that in a side-by-side comparison of two vehicles that it is the Shanghai-made vehicle that is “slightly better”.
The 2021 Shanghai-made Model 3 – featured in his “Ludicrous Feed” video below – has many of the upgrades we saw introduced to the Fremont-made vehicle in 2020, with a few exceptions: it has new software-controlled headlights, new wood grain side panels and notably, more consistent panel gaps says Gan.
“Just from the few points that I’ve seen I would say the Chinese one is pretty consistent, I dare say even slightly better than the US one,” he says.
Speaking with The Driven, Gan says, “It feels and drives like every other Model 3 from the US that I’ve ever been in …. I’d be happy to buy a Chinese Model 3.”
The new matrix headlights on the Shanghai-made vehicle can “apparently can now be software controlled,” says Gan.
“So I’ll be very interested to see once [it] gets that software update that will provide the software control for these headlights …. you could do to a test at night time to see exactly what functions when that becomes available in the near future.”
Noting Shanghai vehicle’s Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres, Gan also says, “They feature also the new aero caps also found in the latest US-made ones from 2021.”
In the front driver and passenger doors, there is a different grille. In the US-made vehicle, “you can see you can see the speaker for the grid pattern behind the grille,” says Gan.
By comparison, he says in the Shanghai-made vehicle, “the mesh it’s different now and you can’t see the pattern behind it at all.”
Something that captured attention when the first images of the Shanghai-made vehicle hit the internet is the wood panelling, which evidently comes from a different supplier as Tesla seeks to reduce costs by localising parts supply.
“Interestingly if you look at the grain of the wood it’s sort of parallel here then we get to the edge there …. they’ve chosen to go this way [so] it keeps going in that direction rather than sort of bending around the and following the parallel direction of the door,” Gan notes.
“Interesting choice, I guess some people might say why didn’t you go parallel this way, but I suppose if I look at it from this angle it doesn’t look too bad,” he says.
As with the US-made refreshed Model 3, there is still a wireless charging pad and centre console with a sliding lid complete with drink holders. Gan notes the door handle button, window controls, “vegan” steering wheel, volume control and scroll wheel, chrome delete trims, double-glazing in the windows and powered rear hatch are all the same also.
As for talk about the AVAS (acoustic vehicle alert system) otherwise known as the “pedestrian boombox”, Gan is not able to determine if it is installed in the Shanghai-made vehicle as photos on the web suggest.
“It’ll be very interesting to see once these cars get the software update whether the boombox is enabled,” he says.
Regarding the size of panel gaps – an issue that has reportedly plagued some Fremont-made Model 3 vehicles, Gan says he was glad to see that in the vehicle he saw there seemed to be an improvement.
“That’s a big question – is the quality the same?” he says.
The verdict – between these two individual vehicles at least – is that the Shanghai-made vehicle gaps are all about 4mm (within spec according to Tesla) whereas on the Fremont-made vehicle they are between 4.5 and 5mm.
“Of course consistency is key as well and from what I can see it looks pretty good,” he says.
Of course, one major difference between the two vehicles is the battery – the Shanghai vehicle is fitted with the cheaper LFP battery. However in this short review, there was not enough time to check on differences like charge rates and capacity, says Gan.
Bridie Schmidt is associate editor for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model Y and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.