Tesla switches back to shipping Fremont-made cars to Canada

Tesla has made another change to their logistics, with the automaker now switching back to sending cars built at the Fremont factory to Canada. So far the change only appears to impact the Model 3, but could also soon include the Model Y.

Back in April Tesla introduced a new Model Y Rear-Wheel Drive (RWD) variant in Canada that was built at Giga Shanghai. This marked the first time Tesla had exported cars from China to sell in North America, and while the Model Y RWD was the first to make the switch, the change soon included all Model 3 and Y variants.

While Tesla never gave an official explanation for the change, it is widely believed Tesla did it in order to take full advantage of the federal tax credit in the US, which require vehicles to have a certain percentage of domestic production in order to qualify.

Six months later and Tesla is now switching back to exporting cars from the US into Canada. The first sign of this change comes from Natural Resources Canada, who today updated their website to include a new “2023 Tesla Model 3 Long Range AWD,” alongside the one labelled as ‘Import.’ (h/t: @JocPelletier)

According to the listing, this Model 3 has 536km (333 miles) of range, compared to the 534km (332 miles) listed on the ‘import’ version. There is also a ‘Model 3 Long Range AWD (pre-1/10/23)’ listed on the website, which represents the certification for the old Fremont-made Model 3 sold in Canada before Tesla switched to importing cars from China, which had 576km (358 miles) of range.

Another change with this Model 3 compared to the ‘import’ version, is a different motor. The listings show the new and ‘pre-1/10/23’ cars as having a 293kW motor, compared to the ‘import’ version with 276kW.

model 3 nrcan listings
Credit: NRCan

While the listings don’t specifically state the car is made at Fremont, Drive Tesla has been able to confirm with a source that Model 3 cars are already in transit to Canada from Fremont. To corroborate this we were then able to find several cars on Tesla’s existing inventory website listed as ‘Arriving Soon’ that have VINs starting with 5YJ, which identifies Model 3 cars built in California. Model 3 cars built in China have a VIN starting with LRW.

Interestingly the NRCan website only lists a new certification for the Model 3 LR, but we were only able to find RWD versions on Tesla’s website with the 5YJ VIN. Here is a Model 3 RWD listed in Vancouver, and there are several others listed with 5YJ in the URL. We were unable to find any east of Vancouver, but this could simply be because of the proximity of Vancouver to California compared to the rest of Canada, and they should be appearing soon.

So why did Tesla change their minds just six months later? Again Tesla has not commented, and likely won’t, but the probable reason is the new Model 3 known as Project Highland. This new Model 3 is currently only being built at Giga Shanghai, and the factory likely doesn’t have the capacity to build both the old and the new Model 3 for Canada, so there was no other choice but to switch back to sending cars from Fremont.

As we noted, this change so far only impacts the Model 3, however it could soon include the Model Y. Earlier this week Tesla reintroduced the white interior option for the Model Y, again six months after it was removed after switching to imported cars from China. We speculated that could mean Tesla had changed their mind and decided to ship Model Ys built at Fremont to Canada, and with this change to the Model 3, that may well be happening soon.

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