Tesla Clearly Confused About Secondhand Vehicle Sales

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
tesla clearly confused about secondhand vehicle sales

Last month we covered an alarming trend where Tesla appeared to be intentionally removing features from vehicles as they entered the secondhand market. Used automobiles are typically sold with their original equipment intact. The previous owner may have wanted to yank out the tape deck or remove the fuzzy steering wheel cover before handing it over, but these are things you probably negotiated before any money changed hands. Unfortunately, things have only grown more complicated in the (post)modern era.

Reports have rolled in of Tesla stripping cars of thousands of dollars worth of features (mainly Autopilot and Ludicrous Mode) simply because they’re in line for a new owner. This sets an ugly precedent for the industry and undermines the time-honored tradition of the private sale. However, there seems to be some amount of confusion surrounding the company’s official policy and its behavior.

Jalopnik, which first reported on the issue, has spent the last month trying to get answers from Tesla — with mixed results. While the company did restore the erroneously named “Full-Self Driving” suite to one de-featured Model S, citing it as a miscommunication, other secondhand shoppers weren’t so fortunate.

From Jalopnik:

One Tesla owner who reached out, Brett, bought a 2018 Tesla Model X P100D from a Tesla dealership in March 2019. Because the car was a showroom vehicle and the previous year’s model, he got it at a bit of a discount, and the car was equipped with Ludicrous Mode (he confirms it was available as an option in the menu), which was further evidenced by the badging on the car, which featured an underlined P100D badge, which is normally used to indicate a car equipped with Ludicrous Mode from the factory.

Brett added FSD to the car for $5,000 extra, though there were issues with Tesla’s systems knowing he had paid for that option. In the process of confirming he had indeed paid for FSD, Tesla decided he didn’t really pay for Ludicrous Mode (which was originally a $20,000 option) and removed Ludicrous Mode from his car.

This echoes other claims floating around various Tesla forums. Customers or independent retailers purchase a used vehicle, take it in for servicing, are subjected to a surprise “audit” and find themselves suddenly on the hook for a pricy feature the vehicle had just days earlier. In the case of Brett, upon further inquiry Tesla basically said he wasn’t entitled to the go-fast software.

“We have reviewed your situation extensively and while we understand that this misconfiguration may have caused confusion, it would not be fair to those who have paid for Ludicrous Mode to make an exception,” a Tesla employee responded. “We are happy to help you purchase the upgrade, or you’re welcome to use your vehicle with Insane Mode.”

The manufacturer has yet to issue an official response as to why this practice exists, though the brand’s customer support hotline told both us and Jalopnik that any features purchased when the car was new (that weren’t subscription based) would carry over to all subsequent owners. This would be a huge relief if we didn’t already know Tesla was acting contrary to the claim. Instead, it feels as though the automaker is testing the waters to see what it can get away with.

Considering used vehicle prices typically account for options, Tesla needs to make abundantly clear what its official policy actually is. While few wish to see Ludicrous Mode, Autopilot, and FSD embrace the subscription model, it would at least provide some clarity for secondhand shoppers. Alternatively, Tesla could stop being so greedy and simply leave the content in its cars alone. Sneakily removing content after someone purchases a vehicle is a bridge too far — tantamount to theft.

For now, the issue doesn’t appear too widespread and primarily impacts units with the most bells and whistles. There’s even a chance that these are isolated incidents (though the window for that being a viable reality is quickly closing). Tesla has had over a month to respond to this. The few answers given, however, have not been heartening.

[Image: JL IMAGES/Shutterstock]

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  • Jeff S Jeff S on Mar 19, 2020

    I will not buy a Tesla ever and I doubt Tesla would want me as a customer. Teslas are overpriced and their attitude is you should be grateful that they are willing to let you buy one of their products and you should thank them for taking your money. I am not a fan of Detroit but I would trust GM and Ford before I would trust Tesla. GM and Ford will be coming out with their own EVs and yes GM already has the Bolt and honestly I would rather have a Bolt than anything Musk comes out with.

  • Art Vandelay Art Vandelay on Mar 19, 2020

    If these "Features" are a subscription model, I shouldn't need to resubscribe when I byuy my new Tesla, correct? Subscriptions stay with the user. I buy these features, then I trade in my Tesla, tesla removes them from my old car and I use them on my new car if we are following the traditional model for this stuff.

  • NormSV650 You forgot to mention this is not a ground EV but based on Volvo CMA ICE platform. Which is also shared with XC40 and Polestar 2. So it may be a few years old now and not cutting edge as other EV's.
  • Peter E. Puffington IV EBFlex puffs peters
  • NotMyCircusNotMyMonkeys for that money, it had better be built by people listening to ABBA
  • Abrar Very easy and understanding explanation about brake paint
  • MaintenanceCosts We need cheaper batteries. This is a difficult proposition at $50k base/$60k as tested but would be pretty compelling at $40k base/$50k as tested.