Digital upgrades mean the electric Tesla Model S improves over time instead of depreciating, according to the company’s UK and Ireland director.
The California carmaker is unusual in the automotive world because it incrementally improves its technology over-the-air with unprecedented frequency, installing software updates in customer cars every three or four months.
While established premium brands such as Mercedes may only usher in new technology every one to three years in the form of a facelift, Tesla can upgrade everything from satellite navigation software to traction control programming wirelessly, and free of charge.
Speaking at a Nimbus Ninety presentation in London, Georg Ell described the Model S as a car “that gets better with age, instead of depreciating.”
Tesla is also aware that regularly changing its product affects insurance coverage, although as most updates concern safety and security it’s unlikely that a premium would rise.
Tesla’s ability to act quickly and effectively was evidenced late last year when it issued an update following a federal investigation of two Model S fires. Overnight all cars were programmed to automatically raise their ride-height at highway speeds, reducing the chances of colliding with debris.
Other updates have included introducing ‘creep’, so owners coming from automatic gasoline vehicle felt at ease, and hill-start assist, which stops the Model S from rolling backwards at steep intersections.
Ell, of course, isn’t being completely truthful. Almost no modern car – with the exception of limited-edition sports cars – is truly depreciation-resistant, but the Model S has held its value early in its production cycle. At one point the sedan was selling at a premium, and even now buyers stalking the classifieds find it difficult to locate an example at a significant reduction.
A Mercedes S-Class, on the hand, is generally valued at around 40 percent of its original price after three years.
Depreciation for earlier Model S’ may quicken once the Model X arrives next year. The zero-emission SUV promises all the ability of its forebear but with more cargo space and a significantly raised ride-height. All-wheel drive will also be standard.
Tesla’s continuous update strategy and a penchant for surprise are not universally admired, however. Owners who bought cars before the recent launch of the faster, more efficient Model S ‘D’ say they feel cheated.