I was just looking at the Tesla Model S Design Studio looking at the cost and features of the Tesla cars. Something caught my eye. Something that seems at odds with the impression I was getting from everything else. The rest of the site and everything else I had heard about Tesla and Elon Musk had given me the impression of a quite upfront and honest approach. Sure, the cars are expensive but it seemed that they were also very modern and it was quite clear where the money was going. I was even feeling alright about paying the higher cost just because it seemed like a good thing to support a company that was introducing genuinely modern features to a car beyond slightly better speakers (although that was an option) and smaller windows but this really annoyed me.
Let me show you.
Do you see the part that has struck me as pretty awful? It is right there at the bottom.
They are charging you £2,500 to enable a feature that must already be in the car. This reminds of all the problems we have seen in the games industry of selling customers day one DLC. Where the customer has bought a game but cant access a feature which will already be on the disk until they pay a little bit extra. It is very annoying.
I know, I know. I work in software, I realise this is just selling the software, so of course it can just be enabled when it is delivered. This isn't buying a small computer and installing a nice bit of software you wanted though. This is a £50-£100k already designed and fitted with the exact tools and sensors for this exact piece of software. Somewhere along the lines there has been a decision made in the production process where people have intentionally made two versions or two options for the software. One with all the features and with less. Then decided to charge 2-5% extra on the price of the car to make it use it all. They haven't done more work to enable these features for the car, you know that they are key selling points of the vehicle. They have done more work to allow them to be disabled and tacked on a price tag.
I can see how this exists though. At the price range that the car is being sold in it is beyond the point where the extra £2,100 matters. It's a small difference to the customer already paying £50k+ but to the company selling a few thousands of these a 2-5% mark-up is significant.
At the end of the day though, to me this is sleazy marketing. I just want to buy a fully functional car. If the cost of developing that software is really £2,100 then make the starting price £52,100 and that is fine. Just don't try and sell me something already in the car after the fact. It's not cool and £2,100 per car is an awfully low cost to undo the respectable image that has taken years to cultivate.