Home / Tesla / Tesla’s Buyback Program Bites the Dust; Consumer Reports Takes on Automaker over Autosteer

Tesla’s Buyback Program Bites the Dust; Consumer Reports Takes on Automaker over Autosteer

2016 Tesla Model S

Getting a good price for a used Tesla is now solely up to its owner, after the automaker discontinued a program that allows three-year-old vehicles to be bought back for 50 percent of the purchase price.

Tesla dumped the program on July 1, Reuters reports, allowing the company earmarked for the program for other purposes. The program was created to assure would-be owners of a basic resale value after the Model S entered the marketplace.

With production of the Model 3 just over a year away, the electric automaker has its work cut out for it. Its facilities need investment if the company wants to reach an annual production rate of 500,000 vehicles, and that means it needs to access all available cash.

Tesla’s total liability for the guaranteed resale value program was $1.58 billion as of the end of March. A company spokesperson quoted by Reuters said the program was scrapped to (among other things) “offer a compelling lease and loan program to customers.”

As it hunts for new revenue sources, the automaker is fighting a PR battle with media, advocacy groups and regulators over its semi-autonomous Autopilot system. The fledgling technology contributed to a fatal crash in May, which raised questions about the system’s safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Transportation Safety Board and Securities and Exchange Commission are all looking into various factors surrounding that crash.

Now, Consumer Reports has joined the fray. In a story titled “Tesla’s Autopilot: Too Much Autonomy Too Soon,” the product testing publication accuses the automaker of sending mixed messages about the abilities of the system.

“Consumer Reports experts believe that these two messages — your vehicle can drive itself, but you may need to take over the controls at a moment’s notice — create potential for driver confusion,” the story reads. “It also increases the possibility that drivers using Autopilot may not be engaged enough to to react quickly to emergency situations.”

The publication wants Tesla to disable the automated steering function (“Autosteer”) in its vehicles until the system can verify that a driver’s hands are on the steering wheel. It also asks all automakers to give their automated features “descriptive” names, rather than “exaggerated” and potentially misleading ones.

Other requests of Tesla include testing automated systems fully before offering them in vehicles, and issuing clearer instructions to owners on how to operate the systems safely. (Tesla said it plans to do the latter in the wake of recent crashes.)

Despite the growing call to put a lid on Autopilot, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said he has no plans to stop offering the feature in new vehicles. If you’re looking for a different take on semi-autonomous driving — one written from the point of view of a driver, not a consumer advocate — TTAC’s Jack Baruth shares his experiences here.

[Image: Tesla Motors]

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