Alleged Tesla Entry-Level Model Testing Mule Spotted in China With Familiar Cues

Alleged Tesla entry-level model testing mule spotted in China 7 photos
Photo: @cyfoxcat via Twitter | Collage
Alleged Tesla entry-level model testing mule spotted in ChinaAlleged Tesla entry-level model testing mule spotted in ChinaAlleged Tesla entry-level model testing mule spotted in ChinaAlleged Tesla entry-level model testing mule spotted in ChinaAlleged Tesla entry-level model testing mule spotted in ChinaAlleged Tesla entry-level model testing mule spotted in China
The pictures of a camouflaged prototype set the internet on fire in China, thanks to the undeniable Tesla headlights and taillights. Nevertheless, the prototype resembles a Mazda CX-30, prompting people to doubt the pictures' authenticity.

Tesla will announce its Gen-3 vehicle architecture during the March 1 Investor Day. The new platform should underpin the future entry-level Tesla model, which many people call Model 2, Model Q, or simply Tesla Q. Although Tesla promised a new EV platform, fans largely expect to see at least a prototype of the upcoming compact EV. If we are to believe the latest pictures shared on Chinese social media, they might have a chance to fulfill their dream.

There are many things off with the prototype in the pictures, which is why many believe they were dealing with badly photoshopped images. Although the car features Tesla-like features, most obvious being the headlights and taillights, it also sports some weird details that have no business on an electric vehicle. The rear bumper exhaust cutout and the tank filler are the most prominent, but one could also argue that the door handles would not make it on any Tesla.

Upon closer inspection, the prototype looks a lot like a Mazda CX-30. In fact, it is a Mazda CX-30, at least on the outside, including the greenhouse and body panels. This made many people doubt that the pictures were real, and I must admit I was among them. Nevertheless, as more photos of the prototype surfaced, sometimes from different angles, I must say there's got to be a fire where there is smoke. There are too many pictures to photoshop, and the effort would be pointless beyond some short-lived fame.

That's why I think the pictures are likely to show an actual Tesla prototype. That would be quite rare, considering that Tesla was almost never caught testing prototypes. But testing a vehicle platform under the body of another vehicle is quite common in the auto industry. Of course, carmakers usually use one of their own car models as the body donor. This makes the alleged Tesla prototype a bit unusual, but not impossible.

Besides the obvious cues on the outside, one of the pictures also reveals a red brake caliper marked with Tesla lettering. Apart from that, the prototype looks like a Tesla Model Y confined to a Mazda CX-30 body, with the front part almost pasted from a Tesla, complete with the repeater cameras. Based on this (assuming the pictures are real), we think Tesla's future compact model might be around 14.4 feet (4,40 meters) in length and adopt a compact crossover shape. Fun fact, Tesla's chief designer Franz von Holzhausen worked in a similar position at Mazda for three years before coming to Tesla in 2008.

This is not the first time a Tesla prototype has been seen in the wild. In October last year, another one wearing a much tighter camouflage and featuring a Tesla-like silhouette was spotted in Europe. We have no idea whether these two prototypes are connected in any way. At the time, Elon Musk admitted it was time Tesla focused on its next affordable model. Based on his words, the upcoming model will be clearly smaller than the Model 3 and would have half the costs of the current Tesla vehicles. There's only one thing we don't know yet: the name.

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About the author: Cristian Agatie
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After his childhood dream of becoming a "tractor operator" didn't pan out, Cristian turned to journalism, first in print and later moving to online media. His top interests are electric vehicles and new energy solutions.
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