It came as something of a breakthrough on Monday when Tesla updated its website to, nearly, put cash prices for its cars up front in its Design Studio—where potential buyers go to configure the cars they want to buy.
Until now, shoppers had to complete building their cars online to see the final price. Up to that point, Tesla only showed an artificially low price that included the federal plug-in vehicle tax credit as well as theoretical fuel savings based on national-average gas prices over six years of ownership. Not all electric-car buyers are eligible for the full tax credit amount of $3,750 on Teslas.
German consumer watchdog Wettbewerbszentrale ruled in March that the company had to display the cash purchase price, but the practice continued in the U.S.
For example, Tesla listed the base price of a Model 3 Standard Range Plus as $29,850, including $10,500 of "potential cost savings." That makes the Model 3 Standard Range Plus look like a much cheaper car, especially when compared with competitors such as the Nissan Leaf Plus, which is listed at $36,550 on Nissan's webiste (both prices excluding mandatory destination charges.)
Tesla Model 3 design website price listing
Now, with Tesla's actual cash purchase price listed in a dark bar across the bottom of the design studio website, buyers can see the base price for the Model 3 SR Plus (still independent of delivery fees) is $39,900. Even better, the price at the bottom updates as buyers add options such as optional colors, updated wheels, the Long Range battery (with all-wheel drive), the Performance package, or Tesla's Full Self-Driving option.
Tesla also offers leasing on all its models.
If buyers really want an estimate of the price after the potential savings that Tesla has long calculated, they can toggle a slider above the main pricing screen to show either the cash price or the potential price after savings there. Either way, both will appear across the bottom of the screen.
It's not the first time that Tesla has made real cash prices available on the main build page. They did so in 2018, but brought the "potential savings" practice back last October. For the sake of consumer transparency, let's hope this time the real price stays visible throughout the design process, and that Tesla can move away from advertising artificially low prices at all.
Certainly other automakers advertise loss leaders and temporary deals, but that doesn't make it any more worthy a business practice.