Tesla has received government approval to produce the long-range rear-wheel-drive version of its Model 3 vehicle at its Chinese factory, according to documents posted Friday on the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology website.
Reuters was the first to report the story.
Tesla started producing a standard-range-plus rear-whee-drive version of the Model 3 at its Shanghai factory late last year. The first deliveries began in early January. This approval allows Tesla to add another variant to its Chinese portfolio. Eventually, Tesla plans to manufacture the Model Y electric vehicle at the China factory.
The move is notable because Tesla discontinued production of the long-range RWD Model 3 in the U.S. and now only offers that variant as a dual-motor all-wheel drive. It also appears to be a shift from Tesla’s initial plan to sell a more basic version of the Model 3 in China.
Tesla struck a deal with the Chinese government in July 2018 to build a factory in Shanghai. It was a milestone for Tesla and CEO Elon Musk, who has long viewed China as a crucial market. And it was particularly notable because China agreed for this to be a wholly owned Tesla factory, not a traditional joint venture with the government. Foreign companies have historically had to form a 50-50 joint venture with a local partner to build a factory in China.