At an event last Thursday, Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) CEO Elon Musk announced that the company had refitted its assembly line, and every new Model S vehicle would now include hardware which enables autopilot features. The high-end model is now also available with an all-wheel-drive system known as the “D”.
While most customers understandably want to own the latest available model, it has been claimed that Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) sales reps withheld information on new technology, or were actively providing false information to ensure existing cars would still be sold.
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Some customers claim that they were persuaded to buy a demo, inventory or loaner Model S, while others allegedly asked specific questions about the impending addition of autopilot and all-wheel-drive but were told that no new features were in the pipeline.
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Public relations puzzle
Rival petitions have been started on change.org, with one pressing for a retrofit of the new features for existing Model S owners, and the other pointing out that any retrofit would be similar to Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) providing a free upgrade every time a new iPhone is released.
Some analysts have played down the impact of the complaints.
“Grousing about AWD is a non-starter. The X (an SUV expected next year) is AWD and this D model is just a way to test the AWD platform before it goes into production in the X,” said Theo O’Neill, an analyst with Ascendiant Capital Markets. “On the other hand, this is the kind of grousing you hear in the service department at your BMW dealer. These customers are picky, and it just means that Tesla is now a real car company.”
Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) takes great pride in its customer service and it remains to be seen how the company will handle this criticism, balancing customer satisfaction with the pitfalls of existing in a fluid and fast-developing sector. The fact that Tesla’s primary market consists of early technology adopters makes it even more difficult to introduce new features without ruffling their feathers.