UPDATE, 11 February 2021: Tesla's boss in China, Tom Zhu, has told local state media the electric car company will have its research and development centre up and running within months.
Mr Zhu also confirmed the future entry-level Tesla would undergo development at the Chinese facility.
"This R&D center is also the first Tesla R&D outside the United States. The research and development centre has all necessary disciplines, covering vehicle design, vehicle engineering, vehicle development, vehicle testing, etc," Zhu said in the interview, translated into English.
"We now expect it up and running in the middle of this year."
11 January 2021: The promised US$25,000 (AU$32,000) Tesla could enter production as early as 2022, according to overseas media.
Chinese media reports Tesla's Gigafactory 3 plant in Shanghai, China will be home to production of a third model – alongside the Model 3 sedan and Model Y mid-size SUV – as soon as 2022, citing an ecological report for the factory submitted to government officials.
The model – unofficially dubbed by many fans as the 'Model 2' – will reportedly be based on the Model 3's rear- and all-wheel-drive platform, and will be priced from 160,000 to 200,000 Chinese yuan – around AU$32,000 to AU$40,000, or closer to $50,000-$55,000 for the flagship model once Australian import costs and taxes are added.
The arrival of the entry-level Tesla was confirmed in September 2020 at the company's Battery Day event (bottom), where CEO Elon Musk announced the model would arrive with full autonomous driving capability on board in around three years – around a year and a half later than the new Chinese production timeline.
While details of the affordable model's body style, styling, interior and powertrains remain shrouded in mystery, it's possible a sketch of a city-sized, coupe-styled hatch designed with China in mind released in January 2020 (top) could preview the upcoming 2022 'Model 2', given the production car's low starting price and Chinese production.