Beware of buying high-tech used vehicles
VANCOUVER -- It used to be when you bought vehicle what you saw is what you got. Not anymore.
A Pemberton couple learned that the hard way after buying a used Tesla Model 3.
In March, Paul Auger and his wife, Hiroko, purchased a 2019 Tesla Model 3 for $46,888 from North Shore Acura in North Vancouver.
The advertisement stated the vehicle had autopilot as an option. However, when they got the vehicle home they discovered it did not have the enhanced autopilot feature they thought they had paid for.
“We would not even have looked at that vehicle if it did not have the feature … it’s a safety feature for my wife after working 12 hour shifts at night,” said Paul Auger.
Tesla has designed the vehicle of the future: a fully-connected vehicle that allows upgrades and options, which can be downloaded directly to the vehicle.
The company wants to control the buying experience and is able to continue to make money off its vehicles long after the original sale.
However, that can create problems in after-market sales, especially if you are buying a used vehicle from a third party or from an auction, like North Shore Acura.
When Auger got the vehicle home, he created an account for the vehicle on the Tesla app and discovered the autopilot feature he wanted was not there.
What went wrong? Used Tesla with autopilot hardware will come with one of three versions
Early in 2019, the Tesla’s autopilot system had three levels. The first level was the basic autopilot with convenience features – sort of an enhanced cruise control, collision warning system. For $4,000 you could level up and download enhanced features from the Tesla app that included auto steer, emergency braking and lane departure avoidance, and from there you could spend about $10,000 to get to the third level, full self-driving.
After creating his online account Auger discovered the enhanced autopilot feature upgrade had been purchased, cancelled and refunded, but he could not get any answers from Tesla about who did that.
Before selling the vehicle, North Shore Acura had reached out to Tesla to inquire about the autopilot feature on the vehicle and in December received an email from a Tesla representative stating, “Autopilot included- no Full self-driving (optional, can be purchased any time thru Tesla app for 10,600$).”
“A reasonable person deducts that they’ve got the auto pilot and enhanced features,” said Auger.
Jason Torchinsky, writer for Jalopnik, a news and opinion website about cars, agrees.
“When you buy a car you see a list of features you expect those are the features you are buying. That is not the case with a used Tesla,” he said.
Torchinsky had previously reported on how expensive upgrades were remotely deleted by the company after a used Tesla was sold, and that the new owner had a struggle trying to get them reinstated.
“It’s a lot less control than we used to have over the cars that we buy. It’s not 100 per cent your car,” said Torchinsky.
So what happened with Auger’s Tesla 3? The original owner of the vehicle had not deleted some personal information from the onboard computer and CTV News was able to track him down.
“I’m the original owner,” said Jason Renaud from Montreal. Renaud purchased the vehicle in March 2019.
“I temporarily purchased the upgraded autopilot,” he said.
Renaud said he had the Tesla app open to listen to music from the vehicle's speakers while working in the yard and accidently purchased the $4,000 autopilot upgrade when he put his mobile phone in his pocket. He says he quickly realized the mistake and Tesla cancelled the purchase, refunding his money.
North Shore Acura, which is owned by the Dilawri Group, acknowledged the confusion over the autopilot feature. In an email to CTV News, Dustin Davis, regional general manager of Dilawri, wrote, “We’ve apologized and offered numerous times to unwind the deal and make the customer whole. We can do this in a way that has a very little impact on the customer.”
However, Auger is not satisfied with the offer and wants the dealer to pay the $4,000 for the enhanced autopilot feature.
“I’d like my auto pilot on the car,” he said.
That could be a legal fight to get the money. North Shore Acura has been reaching out to Tesla to get further clarification about the autopilot, but in an email Tesla’s representative stated, “I have no permission to be involved in this anymore.”
“I would not count on getting any actual response from Tesla,” said Torchinsky.
We did not receive any response from Tesla.
Subscription-based vehicles like Tesla are great for manufacturers because they can keep generating revenue for the companies, but for consumers it is a different story.
“Generally, people have hated this, understandably,” said Torchinsky.
Even if the optional features appear to be there when you drive off the lot, there is no guarantee they will remain.
“It’s very difficult and for consumers who are looking to buy these things used. I think the only safe thing is to assume you’re going to have to re-buy everything,” he added.
If you are buying a used subscription vehicle, make sure to do a thorough test drive before you leave the lot and sign in to the manufacture’s app with the vehicle identification number to confirm the features, and then see if you can get the dealer to guarantee them in writing.
Torchinsky says the big problem is that there is no industry standard yet about selling used subscription vehicles to guarantee the options and purchased features travel with the vehicle when resold.