2012 Tesla Model S beta vehicle, Fremont, CA, October 2011Enlarge Photo
I guess that removes any doubt about the future profitability of Tesla’s service centers.
Model S owners have not responded well to the new plan.
In a poll of owners-to-be on the Tesla Motors Club forum, 12 percent agreed that Tesla had “screwed the pooch” and said they would cancel their orders. Another 48 percent thought the price was too high--but said they would pay it, reluctantly, because they had no other choice.
Only 9 percent thought it was a great deal, and were happy to fork over the $600 each year.
It's odd that Tesla has taken seemingly opposite tacks with its Supercharging and maintenance programs. The Supercharger quick-charging program takes a huge benefit of electric cars--low "fuel" costs--and trumps it, making completely free.
The maintenance program, on the other hand, takes another benefit of electric-car ownership--low maintenance--and negates it, by escalating the price to the level of a gasoline car.
It's a bit like asking Supercharger customers to pay 50 cents a kilowatt-hour, and then saying, "Hey, you're still paying a little less than you would to put gas in a Mercedes."
Here's a pipe dream: Tesla applies its Supercharger philosophy to the Model S service program and makes it free.
It's not such an outlandish idea; BMW already does it. Every new BMW comes with four years and 50,000 miles of free service.
If you ask me, Tesla should emulate the Bimmer instead of the Benz.
In a last-ditch effort to find out what Tesla technicians actually do during the annual inspections, I called one of Tesla's maintenance centers.
"It's basically a systems check," came the answer. "But we haven't received the documentation yet on precisely what we'll be doing. When we get it, I'll be happy to send you a copy."
David Noland is a Tesla Model S reservation holder and freelance writer who lives north of New York City.