Buyer’s Remorse? Tesla Offers Performance Upgrade via Car’s Software

Welcome to the future of car buying.

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Noah Berger / Reuters

A Tesla Model S electric sedan is driven near the company's factory in Fremont, California, June 22, 2012.

Welcome to the future of car buying. As reports, the Tesla S electric car will no longer be offered in the base-level trim, which costs $52,400. This version features a battery with a promised 160-mile range.

The next version up costs $10,000 more, but features a promised 230-mile range, quicker acceleration, higher top speed, more horsepower and more torque.

However, customers who pre-ordered the 160-mile range version “will still get what they ordered,” says Wired, “but instead their new Model S will come equipped with the larger 60 kWh battery, but with its output limited to 40 kWh via the software. That tweak will reduce range from the claimed 230 to 160 miles, but as a consolation prize, the Model S will retain the 60 kWh model’s bump in performance.”

So imagine this: You plunk down $52,400 for an electric car, and then down the line you wish you’d sprung for a version that lasted longer between charges. Instead of trying to sell the old one or talk the dealership into taking your used car back and swapping you into a new lease without penalty, all you’d need to do would be to fork over another $10,000 to have additional features unlocked in your current car.

This is a win-win for Tesla, as the company gets to simplify the manufacturing of this car into a single model to roll off the assembly line, while letting customers optionally upgrade to a higher trim level later. Tesla may not have planned this from the start – the company revealed that only 4% of Model S customers opted for the low-end version, which is why it’s being cancelled – but it may turn out to be a model for how high-tech cars are sold in the future: Sell the best version to everyone, but hold back the best features to be unlocked via software.

Now we get to see how long it takes for the first base-level Tesla to get overclocked, jailbroken, rooted, hacked or otherwise suped up by its owner without forking $10,000 over to the company – and whether Tesla embraces such a tinker-happy owner community or tries to prevent such things from happening.

Tesla ‘Cancels’ Lowest-Spec Model S, Expects Full Profitability in Q1 2013 []