Tesla quietly downgraded the chips for some Model 3 vehicles because of coronavirus and owners are furious

Elon Musk at the opening ceremony for Tesla’s China-made Model Y program in Shanghai, China January 7, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo
  • Tesla Model 3 owners in China are angry after finding out the company quietly downgraded the chip inside their cars’ computer to an older generation of hardware, Nikkei Asian Review reports.
  • The discovery was made after some customers noticed a mismatch between the part number printed on a sticker inside the car and the Model 3’s information sheet.
  • Tesla apologised for the confusion and said supply chain problems caused by the coronavirus meant it was shipping units with the old chip.
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Tesla owners in China noticed a surreptitious change to their Model 3 vehicles last week.

The electric carmaker quietly started selling Model 3s with an old version of its control chips due to supply chain problems caused by the coronavirus outbreak, Nikkei Asian Review reports.

Tesla didn’t alert new buyers to the chip downgrade, and it only came to light after owners spotted the part number printed on stickers attached to the control unit inside the car didn’t match up with the Model 3’s information sheet. The new chip is meant to be 21 times faster than the old one, according to a Tesla WeChat post unearthed by Nikkei.

“We are deeply sorry for the confusion we have caused to some Tesla owners,” the company said in a statement on Chinese social media platform Weibo. It said it hadn’t meant to mislead customers, and that the chip swap made “almost no difference” to driver experience or safety. Tesla also said it would provide free hardware upgrades to customers once production picks back up.

Tesla was forced to temporarily shut down its new Shanghai factory on January 29 for ten days.

After the Nikkei article went live, Elon Musk tweeted saying the customers who had complained hadn’t ordered Full Self-Driving (FSD). “Perhaps they weren’t aware that the computer is upgraded for free if the FSD option is ordered even after delivery,” he added.

Tesla’s FSD feature generally adds $US7,000 to the cost of a Model 3, as confirmed to Business Insider by a Tesla spokesperson. As Nikkei noted, this statement seems to contradict Tesla’s statement that it will upgrade the chip for any customers affected for free – not just the ones who have ordered their cars with FSD. Tesla declined to comment when contacted by Business Insider for clarification.