Tesla buyers beware – the manufacturer can hold your car ransom by decreasing its range remotely. That’s exactly what happened to one owner of a Tesla Model S after he took his car for a service at one of the brand’s centres. The company claimed the driver had a ‘configuration mistake’ on his Model S which meant his car should be capable of 80 miles of range less than it was, and that he should cough up $4,500 (around £3,700) to get the full range back (and rectify Tesla’s mistake).
The situation was brought to light in a tweet by Twitter user Jason Hughes, owner of a Tesla component business. Allegedly it all started years before when the first owner took the Model S 60 to have the battery swapped out under warranty. As its name suggests, the Model S 60 was originally fitted with a 60kWh battery pack. Perhaps Tesla was feeling particularly generous that day, or 60kWh batteries were in limited supply, because the pack was swapped out for a 90kWh unit as used in the higher-spec Model S 90, and the company made whatever changes necessary to allow it to be used to full capacity.
Years down the line, the current owner took his Model S to a Tesla service centre to carry out an update to its internet connection system. After leaving the service, the owner reportedly received a call from the company happily informing him that the ‘configuration mistake’ (that was presumably made by them) meant they had remotely decreased his range and that he should pay up to unlock it again.
Hughes reported in a later tweet that Tesla eventually backtracked on its demands and the owner had the full 90kWh battery range restored. While the issue was resolved, it did leave us thinking – as great as the benefits of over-the-air updates and in-car connectivity can be, the fact that car manufacturers can make these changes to your car legally and demand money to undo them makes us uncomfortable.
Just a few weeks ago, BMW caused a stir when it announced drivers will be able to pay for a subscription to activate features like heated seats in its cars remotely, although it’s keen to point out that customers can still pay outright for unlimited access in the old fashioned way.
What do you think? Was Tesla well within its rights to decrease the range in the owner’s car?