Killed Watts: Tesla Restores Power after Model S Owner Files Suit ""
Posted on: September 8, 2017

2015 Tesla Model S P85D

Tesla drivers who used to drag Porsche Turbos can once again exploit their explosive acceleration, but only thanks to a Model S owner in Mesa, Arizona.

The man, who chooses to remain unnamed, has chronicled his frustration with Tesla since mid-May, when he posted a letter from the Arizona attorney general’s office on the Tesla Motors Club forum. His complaint, well known among Tesla drivers—including ourselves as testers of a long-term Model S—was a sudden and significant drop in motor power when accelerating in Insane or Ludicrous modes. It was enough for the man to file a lawsuit in small claims court, alleging that Tesla illegally altered his car’s performance (the Ludicrous option package that he paid for) without his knowledge or consent. Finally, after months of obfuscation by the automaker, Tesla owners can terrify their passengers as they did when their cars were new.

In a routine software update sometime in 2016, Tesla reduced the peak power of every all-wheel-drive Model S. Before we turned in our long-term 2015 Model S P85D, we ran it through our full battery of tests as we do for all long-term cars over their 40,000-mile stay. The results were plenty fast, but markedly disappointing: Our initial zero-to-60-mph run was delayed 0.4 second (to 3.7), and the quarter-mile added half a second and a 2-mph-slower trap speed (12.3 seconds at 112 mph). This wasn’t an issue with weather, our test driver, or our particular car. It was because of Tesla updating the software during our stewardship of the car.

In mid-January, the automaker admitted after the fact that it had cut power on all-wheel-drive Model S sedans with the intent of protecting their powertrains and batteries from excess wear during repeated hard launches. Tesla agreed to restore power in a software update it released weeks later, although only if the driver engaged launch control. On the TMC forum, sales president Jon McNeill wrote that Tesla would “monitor the condition of the powertrain and let our customers know if service is needed” as opposed to restricting power. Even then, Tesla owners—who are just as data-obsessed as the automaker, if not more—proved through their OBD ports that Tesla hadn’t made them whole. Hence the lawsuit.

“With Elon so visibly leading the company, it never occurred to me that this would play out the way it did,” the Arizona owner wrote in May.

2015 Tesla Model S P85D

The lawsuit forced Tesla into reversing all of its previous efforts, so that full power is now available all of the time. Initially, according to forum postings, Tesla offered to restore only the Arizona owner’s car in return for signing a nondisclosure agreement. But the owner wanted all Tesla owners to see the benefit, and after refusing to sign, he filed suit seeking the minimum of monetary damages.

When we contacted the owner—whose court case is not publicly available—he told us he didn’t want to pursue a lawsuit but felt it was the only way to remedy the company’s “poor customer service.”

“Even though this has been a terrible ordeal, Tesla has now hopefully done the right thing and I don’t desire for them to be dragged down over this,” he wrote to C/D. “It is over now (hopefully) and I still want Tesla to do well.”

On August 27, McNeill wrote that the company’s latest software update would allow “maximum battery performance independently from Launch mode.” The lawsuit gave Tesla until September 14 to distribute the update, which, the Arizona owner (and others) have confirmed, restored their kilowatts back to normal, ludicrous levels. Still, to be certain, the owner told us he would be recording another drag-strip run in Phoenix before the final court date.

This wasn’t the first time Tesla has been caught messing with numbers. In December, Tesla settled a class-action lawsuit in Norway after the company admitted to exaggerating advertised power levels on the P85D.

“This could have (and should have) been handled better (and at less cost),” the owner wrote to McNeill on August 26. “Your word is the most important thing you have, and you let your customers down on this one.”


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