Last week it was reported that Tesla was preparing to export Canada’s new Model Y RWD with lithium iron phosphate (LFP) cells from China, marking the first time the company has exported cars from Giga Shanghai to North America. However based on a recent sighting at a Shanghai port, Tesla also appears to be exporting Model 3 cars made to Canada for the first time.
Captured in a drone flyover of Shanghai Nangang Terminal on April 27, 2023 by Wu Wa, several Model 3s can be seen on a transport truck, with one of them reversing off and driving away. Although it is brief, we can clearly see the driver is sitting on the left hand side of the vehicle. While being a left-hand drive (LHD) Model 3 is not uncommon, an indication that these are heading for North America, and presumably Canada, is the license plate bracket, which is more of a square shape compared to the longer and narrower bracket for European license plates.
If those two hints weren’t enough, the ship that these cars were waiting to be loaded onto is destined for Tacoma, Washington, just south of the Canadian border, according to Tesla ship tracker Morten Grove (@mortenlund89).
Tesla has yet to confirm that they will actually be exporting the Model Y RWD to North America from China, and there has also been no official word, or even a rumour that Tesla was preparing to export the Model 3 to Canada.
The big question is why begin exporting to Canada now, and the answer likely has to do with the US tax credit. We assume this is the RWD variant with the LFP battery pack, which is also made at the Fremont factory. This Fremont-made variant of the Model 3 only qualifies for half of the US tax credit ($3,750) due to the new battery sourcing requirements implemented last month, so Tesla would not be exporting it to North America to sell in the US as it would not qualify for any amount of the tax credit.
That leaves Canada as the destination for these made-in-China Model 3 RWDs. Since Canada’s federal incentive does not have any requirements around where the vehicle is built in order to qualify for the $5,000 rebate, the automaker is likely wanting to keep all of Fremont’s production for the US market, and instead use inventory from China to supply Canada. This wouldn’t be difficult to accomplish as Tesla would only need to export about 20,000 Model 3 RWDs to Canada per year based on the most recent sales data from Transport Canada.
You can see the vehicles in question in the video below, which should start at the 8:43 mark.