2012 Tesla Model S SignatureEnlarge Photo
It looks like Tesla may just have done it again.
Compared to Nissan's challenged public responses to hot-weather range-loss problems in its Leaf electric car, a recent move by Tesla to offer free Supercharging to early buyers of the 60-kWh version of its 2012 Model S looks like brilliant customer relations.
Or at least it looks brilliant to me. I'm set to take delivery in December of my own all-electric Tesla Model S luxury sport sedan.
And after a surprise e-mail from Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] earlier this week, I'm a really, really happy customer right now.
Here's the story.
I put down my deposit more than three years ago, so I'm pretty early in the queue (reservation P 717, out of 13,000 outstanding as of last week).
My number came up in August, and I chose my battery size (60 kWh, the middle of three alternatives) and color (green), specified the options I wanted, and signed my purchase agreement on September 5.
One of the options supposedly available to me at that time was Supercharging: the onboard hardware and software required to use the network of ultra-fast charging stations that Tesla had been teasing for months--though it hadn't then officially unveiled any details.
According to Tesla's website, Supercharging was to be standard on the 85-kWh Model S, optional at a price "to be determined" on 60-kWh cars like mine, and unavailable on the base 40-kWh version.
But I didn't see a Supercharger box to check on my purchase agreement. No problem: Since I knew little about Supercharging, and the price had not yet been determined, I wouldn't have opted for it any case.
Then, on September 24, Tesla officially unveiled the Supercharger system. The big news was that the charging service would be free for all Model S owners equipped with the hardware to handle it.
Four days later, I got an e-mail announcing the price of the Supercharger option for my 60-kWh car: $1,000 for the hardware, plus $1,000 for software testing and calibration.
But, the e-mail continued, "Since you are an early reservation holder and booked your 60-kWh Model S before complete Supercharging information was available, we planned ahead to build your Model S with Supercharger hardware at no additional cost to you."
2012 Tesla Model S Charging ConnectorEnlarge Photo
The testing and calibration, however, would still cost $1,000. Did I want my Supercharging hardware enabled at that price?
I mulled that one for a while. Though I don't often make long cross-country trips, it would be nice to have the option.
It seemed a waste to have the Supercharging hardware in the car, but unusable. And, frankly, I didn't want to miss out on the full Tesla experience.
So, what the hell? I clicked the "Add Supercharging " box.
Four days later came the e-mail that shocked and delighted me.
"After revisiting some of the explanations we used on our website and in our Design Studio the past few months, we feel as though it was not as clear as it should have been regarding the requirement to activate Supercharging on 60-kWh battery cars."
"As a result, we are going to waive the entire fee to enable Supercharging on your 60-kWh Model S. You will now receive free, unlimited Supercharging on your car at no additional cost."
Tesla Supercharger fast-charging system for electric carsEnlarge Photo
"We apologize for the confusion. We thought our explanations were clear, but they were not clear enough."
To be honest, I was never confused about the Supercharger option.
But I will happily accept Tesla's largesse, and take it as a very positive sign for the future: This is a company that clearly wants to keep its customers happy.
Now, about that Model S service program....
David Noland is a Tesla Model S reservation holder and freelance writer who lives north of New York City. This is his fifth article for High Gear Media.