Tesla said on Thursday its Model 3 -- heralded as an electric car for the masses -- is available for order online only at a price of $35 000 (the equivalent of R492 000), with delivery promised within a month.
The announcement fulfills a vision of Tesla founder and chief Elon Musk, who has touted a more affordable electric car as part of his vision of weaning drivers from gasoline-powered vehicles.
The Model 3 was to be priced at $35 000 when Tesla first began taking orders in 2016, but the cheapest version before today was about $10 000 more expensive despite price cuts that followed reductions in the US federal tax credit for vehicles not burning fossil fuels.
Musk described the Model 3 early on as "the final step in the master plan: a mass market, affordable car."
With Model 3, Tesla aimed to show it can appeal to the general public and produce cars en masse.
Not long after Tesla was founded in 2003, Musk said the plan was to use money from high-end electric vehicles to create more affordable offerings to make the technology the new automotive norm.
As it launched its least expensive Tesla, the company said it would sell only via the internet.
"To achieve these prices while remaining financially sustainable, Tesla is shifting sales worldwide to online only," Tesla said in a statement.
The "standard" Model 3 has a smaller range before recharging, of 350km.
Its specifications include a top speed of 208km/h and 0-98km/h acceleration of 5.6 seconds.
"Although lower in cost, it is built to achieve the same perfect 5-star safety rating as the longer-ranged version," Tesla said.
Tesla also introduced a Model 3 Standard Range Plus, which offers 386km of range, a more powerful drivetrain and premium interior features at a price of $37 000.
Tesla shares that closed the formal trading day up slightly slid 3.3% to $309.38 in after-market trades that followed release of the news.
"The bears will focus on this news as a sign that lower profitability and demand are catalyzing this move and strategic pivot, which we strongly disagree with," Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives said in a note about Tesla to investors.
"We believe this strategic shift was the right move at the right time for Tesla, although the stock will be a 'prove me' name for the next 6-9 months."