I've had my 2013 Tesla Model S for two and a half years now, and I've reported on the entire process, from ordering through delivery.
After an update on my battery capacity--which lost slightly more than average, but not worrisomely so--it's time for a roundup of other items I've faced as I reach the end of my warranty.
I had to decide whether to purchase Tesla's extended warranty
A few weeks back, as the odometer on my 2013 Model S approached the 50,000-mile limit for my bumper-to-bumper warranty, I mulled whether to opt for Tesla’s extended service agreement, which would cover any repairs over the next four years and/or 50,000 miles.
At $4,000, the price was reasonable as these things go (a bit cheaper than the extended warranties offered by Mercedes and BMW), but nevertheless a large chunk of change.
2013 Tesla Model S owned by David Noland, Catskill Mountains, NY, Oct 2015
Only a handful of Model S cars on the road have driven more than 50,000 miles, so there was virtually no history of out-of-warranty repairs to study. My own in-warranty repair history was not bad, mostly niggling little stuff like door handles and trunk latches.
On the plus side, the truly big-ticket items—battery, electric motor and inverter—were still covered by the eight-year infinite-mile power train warranty.
And if I sold or traded the car before the end of the warranty, I would get a pro-rated refund. But on the downside, there was a deductible of $200 per repair.
And I still worried about the “little” stuff. A door handle replacement would cost about $1,200. The touch screen runs $6,000, the air suspension $2,000 per axle. There is simply no data on the long-term reliability of these potentially wallet-busting items.
It was a tough decision indeed.
And then, just last week, Consumer Reports pulled its “Recommended” rating for the Model S because of worse-than-average reliability.
2015 Tesla Model S P85D door handle, captured from Consumer Reports video, May 2015
And another reliability tracking service, TrueDelta, reported the Model S to have the worst reliability of any of the 29 car brands it surveys, with repairs running two to three times the average.
I was terribly torn. Should I be the savvy consumer, the gutsy adventurer willing to roll the dice and strike out into little-known territory?
Or should I succumb to the comfort and security of the Tesla womb, coddled and protected from any uncertainty or—God forbid—risk?
Objectively, I figured that my out-of-warranty repair bills would probably not exceed $4,000 over the next four years.
Tesla Model S in Albuquerque's 'snowstorm' during NY-to-California road trip [photo: David Noland]
But in the end, it all came down to peace of mind—a commodity of which I am quite fond, and for which I am willing to pay.
And so I wrote the check for $4,000.
Version 7.0 for the have-nots
The big news recently in Teslaworld has been the rollout of Firmware version 7.0, the latest addition to the autopilot suite. (Cue the look-Ma-no-hands YouTube videos).
But for the 40,000 of us Model S owners with cars built before September 2014, without the requisite cameras, radar, and sonar hardware, the 7.0 rollout has been an exercise in autopilot envy.
Still, 7.0 included a few crumbs for us autopilot have-nots. Among them:
Tesla Model S redesigned instrument cluster, Version 7.0 operating software [photo: David Noland]
*Redesigned Instrument Cluster.
Graphics have been tweaked and some readouts added, with others moved around. Although Tesla crows about the redesign being “modern” and “clean,” it’s pretty minor stuff.
Oddly, the battery state-of-charge/range bar has been downsized and removed from its prominent central position just below the digital speed readout. This change baffles me; for any electric car driver, the range/SOC is a major focus.
In its place is a silly little picture of the car, a drone’s-eye view from above and behind. The picture animates in response to lights and turn signals. Big whoop.
One thing I do like is the addition of an info readout for each individual trip. Previously, there was a “Since Last Charge” readout of miles, kilowatt-hours used, and efficiency. You could also keep track of two specific trips manually.
But the new readout starts from zero each time the car is placed in Drive, so you know exactly how you’re doing on that particular trip, in addition to that particular charge.
The new “this trip” readout replaces the kWh-used number with a time readout. I’ve found the trip time function to be quirt handy. (The kWh number remains in the “Since Last Charge” readout, where it’s more relevant.)
2013 Tesla Model S in Florida, during New York to Florida road trip [photo: David Noland]
*Touch Screen Graphics Upgrade
Again, Tesla makes a big deal about the “new, modern look," but I can barely see a difference.
*Improved Climate Controls
Tesla says “The system will now reach your desired temperature more quickly while using less energy.”
I guess I’ll just have to trust them on this one; there’s no noticeable change from the driver’s point of view.
Tesla Model S at Supercharger site in Ventura, CA, with just one slot open [photo: David Noland]
The torque sleep technology from the dual-motor Model S has been applied to the single-motor rear-drive cars. According to Tesla, “When at a standstill, the motor will now completely de-energize and seamlessly re-energize when needed.” This allegedly improves efficiency.
No claims for increased range are made, and I’ve noticed no change in day-to-day efficiency. Good to know it’s there, though.
Overall, then, for us have-nots Version 7.0 is no big deal. But Elon Musk has tweeted that 7.1 will have a major UI (user interface) upgrade that will presumably apply to all cars.
This could be tricky; user interface is a notoriously subjective arena. Some may love an entirely new way of dealing with their car, some may hate it. I wonder if 7.1 will have a “Delete” option for those who like their Teslas just the way they are.
In the meantime, I’m still hoping for the so-called “smart” wipers to get an IQ upgrade from their current 60 or so, as well as permanent hill-hold and an automatic power cut-off whenever the brake pedal is pressed.
Tesla Supercharger site in Newburgh, New York, up and running - June 2015
Supercharger contractors...and “tricky” owners
Last summer, I wrote about the joys and frustrations of finally getting a Supercharger in Newburgh, NY, not far from my home.
The joys were self-evident; the frustrations were primarily the false hopes raised by Tesla’s “Coming Soon” Supercharger maps--and the contractor screw-ups that delayed construction once it finally started almost two years after the map’s projected date.
I visited the site often, and got to know the work crew, a friendly bunch who seemed happy to talk about the project.
In the article, I detailed how the crew repeatedly stopped work to go to another Supercharger project in New Hampshire.
How they misread the plans and put the charging stanchions too close together, then had to rip them out and start all over again, inadvertently severing the restaurant’s gas and electric lines in the process.
Tesla Supercharger site in Newburgh, New York, under construction - June 2015
But in the end, everything worked out, and the station opened in June.
Shortly thereafter, Tesla issued a stern memo to all of its Supercharger contractors.
The message: Shut up. Don’t talk to anyone, press, public, or Tesla owners. You are like Schultz in Hogan’s Heroes: You know nothing, nothing.
“Failure to adhere to these guidelines can result in disqualification from present and future projects,” the letter said.
The letter went on to warn the Supercharger contractors against nefarious schemes by curious owners to pry information out of them.
“Owners and bloggers can be tricky,” the letter warned. “There is no such thing as ‘off the record.’”
Tesla Supercharger site in Newburgh, New York, under construction - June 2015
Tesla assured the contractors that Model S owners wouldn’t be bothered a bit by their stonewalling.
“They are used to hearing this,” the letter intoned. “It’s okay.”
As one Model S owner noted on the Tesla Motor Club forum, which revealed the memo: “That’s Tesla’s communications strategy fully distilled down into one awesome nugget!”