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It appears that Tesla’s new $600-per-year service program for its Model S is not going over well with some of the owners and wait-listers. David Noland, a Model S reservation holder and freelance writer, has dug into it the details and clarified the one he’s finding most annoying. And as it turns out, he’s not the only one taking issue with the program.
According to Green Car Reports, Noland owns a 2011 Chevrolet Volt and likes the service coverage for the plug-in hybrid’s electric motor and battery thermal-management system. It only needs minimal maintenance – a $49 annual system check at a local dealer and a $35 oil change every two years. That’s $84 for two years of routine maintenance. For the Model S, it’s a lot higher: $600 per year, and that electric car doesn’t even need the oil change.
Tesla’s official website says that the annual fee includes an inspection, replacement parts such as brakes and windshield wipers, roadside assistance, system monitoring, remote diagnostics and software updates, so it is more comprehensive. Looking for more detailed information, Noland contacted Tesla’s public relations department but reportedly never heard back. Tesla CEO Elon Musk, though, did eventually respond to Noland’s questions. “We are matching service cost to be less than a Mercedes of comparable purchase price,” Musk wrote. “This basically amounts to $50/month and covers all software upgrades as well as concierge level service.”
When Noland responded with a question about whether Tesla owners who opt out of the service program won’t receive software upgrades, Musk apparently didn’t respond.
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Further investigation showed that the matter is even more serious. In a recent blog post on Tesla Motor Club forum, Tesla’s vice president, George Blankenship, made the policy more clear in comments on a post about the new service plans: failure to pay $600 for an annual inspection voids the warranty. Plus, any visit to a non-Tesla shop for any type of service will void the warranty, a provision that could run afoul of the law.
This isn’t going over well with Model S owners. In a Tesla Motors Club forum survey, 12 percent agreed that Tesla had “screwed the pooch,” and would cancel their orders. About 48 percent think the price is too high but will reluctantly pay it since they don’t think they have another choice. Only nine percent think it’s a great deal worth every dollar.
Noland thinks it’s odd that Tesla is taking what looks like the opposite approach with the Supercharger, offering the fast charging for free. He’d like to see Tesla do something similar with its Model S maintenance plan, or at least follow the example of BMW, where every one of its luxury cars comes with four years/50,000 miles of included service.
By Jon LeSage
What if you could have a 17-inch iPad built into your car? It’s almost a reality for one of the more than 250 folks who own a Tesla Model S, save a few key features.
Unfortunately, those features are probably some of the most important ones that give the iPad its massive appeal. Take the interface — it’s something Apple guards dearly. So Tesla can’t copy exactly how an iPad works, and probably doesn’t want to. Or maybe they do?
George Blankenship, vice president of Tesla sales, recently spoke with AutoGuide and hinted at some of the cool developments buyers and owners might look forward to soon. Easily topping the list, there’s a chance Tesla might open its coding crypt to outside program developers.
“Asking us is there something we will never do? That page will never fit in our dictionary,” he said. “Do I see a day when [outside app development] will happen, yes I do.”
Much like what made the iPhone so successful, Tesla wants to think “10 years into the future,” Blankenship said. While offering an app store is hardly forward thinking when it comes to handhelds, porting that possibility into a car with a massive touch display might be.
“What we want to make sure of before we enable something like that is that we have a complete separation between two things in the car. One is the interface where somebody could do things like that in and the other being the operation of the car itself,” Blankenship said.
With the Model S, Tesla already started offering remote updates. Customers wanted to change steering feel to offer normal, sport and comfort modes. They also wanted a “creep” feature to make the Model S feel more like an internal combustion engine (ICE) car with an automatic transmission. A few weeks after those requests came in, a remote update appeared and the car suddenly met those requests.
SEE ALSO: Tesla Flagship Store Opens in Canada
But those are only a couple of the tweaks Blankenship said customers can expect to see soon. Among the others: automatically extending door handles.
Just one of many steps Tesla engineers took to make the Model S extremely aerodynamic, the car features door handles that sit flush with the panels when they aren’t needed. With the push of a button, those handles extend to offer access, but that’s not good enough. Blankenship said owners will be able to customize their cars soon to make the handles extend automatically when the key fob comes close enough.
At launch, the car offered memory for two driver preference presets, but now there’s capacity for 10. One thing is clear: Tesla is committed to offering its customers a dynamic driving experience.
Sure, the long-term numbers are bigger – 5,000 produced by the end of the year, 20,000 (or maybe even 30,000) in 2013 – but the immediate digits that define the Tesla Model S are quite manageable. Specifically, as of Friday, Tesla has built 50 of the luxury electric vehicles, 29 for retail customers and 21 that are destined for Tesla stores.
In the next few weeks, Tesla plans to build 50 more and the pace will increase as needed after that until the automaker hits the aforementioned target numbers, Bloomberg reports. What’s perhaps most interesting is that the first 50 vehicles have already been driven more than 39,000 miles, writes George Blankenship, Tesla’s vice president of worldwide sales and ownership experience, which is an average of 780 miles per vehicle. Most of those miles were put on at the Get Amped Model S tour, which is out and about introducing the car to potential buyers. The plan for that road show is 5,000 test drives in 45 days. As always, Tesla is thinking big.
Still, as of today, you could park every Model S that exists in a moderately sized restaurant parking lot. It won’t be long, and this will not be the case.
Related GalleryTesla Model S
Unlike typical dealers, Tesla has a network of “stores” and “retail stores.” While reservations can be made for a new Model S or Roadster at the retail store, Tesla says other versions of the store merely direct potential customers to make their reservation online. Most of these boutique-style stores are in shopping malls, and Tesla asserts that they are not sales facilities. It’s an assertion with which traditional auto dealers are taking issue.
Dealers associations and networks across the country are doubling down their efforts to make Tesla’s OEM showroom network illegal. Tesla has opened 17 stores in 10 states, as well as the District of Columbia.
Dealership associations contend Tesla’s notion that sales are not made at these stores, stating that the showroom experience is still part of the sales process. To that end, dealer groups across the country have embarked in legal battles with the electric carmaker. The Illinois Secretary of State has informed Tesla that it is illegal to list CEO Elon Musk as the owner of its Chicago store. The Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association is looking into legal options against Telsa’s Westchester store, as well as two others in New York. In Massachusetts, the opening of a store in the suburban Natick Mall is having its legality challenged by the dealer association in that state. California has laws in place that allow for a manufacturer to run its own dealership, as long as it is not within 10 miles of an existing dealer. That practice caught the ire of Chrysler dealers when the American automaker opened its own multi-brand showroom near downtown Los Angeles.
Tesla says the way that its stores are run are unique to each location. According to George Blankenship, Tesla’s VP of sales, “If we can’t be a dealer in a mall, we won’t do reservations on-site. We tell people where to go on our website to make a reservation.” Blankenship is the former Apple retail guru and the mind behind the Apple Stores – an experience Tesla hopes to recreate in its own sales network. In the eyes of many dealers, that is a threat to their own dealership model. As Tesla seeks to open more stores in more states, this is unlikely to be the end of the pushback against the electric automaker.
Luxury EV maker Tesla opened one of its boutique stores in Canada to the public today, marking the brand’s first location in the country.
The first official store in Canada, the outlet is located in the newly opened wing of the Yorkdale Shopping Center in Toronto, Ontario.
Following the same philosophy as its other 24 storefronts in North America, Tesla isn’t aiming to sell cars to those who happen to wander in during a shopping excursion. Instead, it aims to educate people on electric cars and what it, as an automaker, offers consumers.
A staff is always on hand take grazers through a series of tutorials designed to show what going electric is all about. Tesla sales vice president George Blankenship was on hand today to talk about the company’s current product and the brand’s goals for its flagship Canadian location.
SEE ALSO: Tesla CEO Hints at Electric Truck and Electric Supercar
What’s that goal? Building a brand identity. “95 percent of people don’t know who we are,” he said. That’s exactly what he said Tesla means to combat by opening these locations. “We’ll open another 25 stores this year,” he said. Currently, there are 24 locations in North America, which was the brand’s main focus this year.
“There’s a bit of lighting that happens when you talk to someone in person,” he said while smiling.
But that lightning is raising a few eyebrows in the U.S. where the brand’s primary focus was this year. Complains and lawsuits from the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) rose this year around Tesla’s small, independent storefront strategy. Laws exist in some states to prevent automakers from selling directly to consumers — primarily to protect dealer networks from being squeezed out.
But Tesla doesn’t have a dealer network, and therein lies the argument currently flaring between the two groups. Nevertheless, Blankenship said Tesla isn’t worried about the lawsuit, and quickly pointed out that it won’t be a struggle the brand will face with its new Canadian location.
GALLERY: Tesla Model S