Revealed: Tesla Fremont Has Already Debuted Trial Production of the Model 3 Highland

Tesla Model 3 Highland has a Fremont VIN 8 photos
Photo: u/vanshv2003, u/LavishnessThink6831 via Reddit
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Tesla is once again proving to be a master of disguise as it tests Model 3 Highland prototypes with Chinese badging in the US. Thanks to a very inquisitive Tesla fan, now we know that at least some of these prototypes have been produced at Tesla Fremont. Several details point in this direction, with the car's VIN being the most obvious.
Tesla unveiled the refreshed Model 3 in Europe and China in September 2023, but US customers are still buying the old model. So far, only Giga Shanghai is building the Model 3 Highland, which means that only the markets supplied from China benefit from the revamped Model 3. However, Tesla expects to start US production at the Fremont factory, bringing the Model 3 Highland to North America.

We've already seen Model 3 Highland prototypes testing on US roads, with some of them shedding camo immediately after the official launch in Europe and Asia. However, others had important parts covered, hinting that Tesla was testing several variants, and some were different from the ones selling in Europe. We figured these camouflaged Model 3s could be the Performance variant, which is yet to be released in either market.

One characteristic of the undisguised Model 3s was the Chinese badge at the rear. This is identical to the one on cars sold in China, indicating that the prototype was not only made at Giga Shanghai but destined for the Chinese market. However, less than three months later, everything we took for granted was put under a big question mark. As more Tesla Model 3 Highland engineering vehicles with manufacturer's plates were spotted, one of them revealed intriguing new details.

On New Year's Eve, a bunch of Highland prototypes were spotted at the Tesla Fremont factory. Some of them had the above-mentioned Chinese badge on them, so I thought they were part of the same testing program. Still, two days later, a Tesla fan snapped a picture of one of the Highland prototypes' VIN, and the result shocked the Tesla community. Not only did it come with Hankook tires, like other US-made cars (made-in-China Model 3s sport Michelin tires), but the VIN is also US-specific.

Despite the Chinese lettering, the car's VIN starts with 5YJ, indicating that it was produced at Tesla Fremont. For reference, the vehicles built at Giga Shanghai have the VIN starting with LRW. The sticker on the windshield also reveals that the car was recently built, with a manufacturing date of December 7, 2023.

Revisiting the pictures taken at Tesla Fremont earlier, you can see that not all cars in the parking lot have Chinese lettering. This might indicate that Tesla is closer to customer production than anyone anticipated. According to some rumors, an official announcement is expected by the end of the month, probably during the Q4 2023 earnings call. The official deliveries would start a little later, probably in March.
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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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