Tesla May Owe $16,000 to Thousands of Owners

Tesla was just found guilty of lowering battery capacity and raising charging speeds through over-the-air software changes. A court in Norway found it guilty of dropping the range of 2016 and earlier Model S and X vehicles with the 85 kWh battery packs. It could cost Tesla $16,000 for every one of these sold unless it appeals. 

Worse is that other countries are eyeing the Norway court proceedings as they contemplate similar lawsuits. The changes occurred after the 2019.16.1 and 2 software updates. Owners saw an immediate drop in the range varying from 12 to 30 miles between charges. 

You can see the Tesla range drop in the graph

A gray Tesla Inc. Model S electric vehicle at the automaker's showroom in Shanghai, China
The Tesla Model S | Qilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

One of these affected owners provided a chart he put together plotting his varying ranges after each charge. Electrek provided his plot below. You can see the immediate drop after the update at around 130,000 miles. 

Graph of Tesla miles range drop | Electrek
Graph of Tesla miles range drop | Electrek

When queried about the drop in range and increase in charging times, the company said the update protected the battery and improved its life. It also said that range loss was only experienced by “a small percentage of owners.” Owners then wanted more information on why their cars needed better battery protection. 

Tesla never responded to the lawsuit which automatically awarded $16,000 each

A visitor experiences a white Tesla Model X during the 3rd China International Import Expo (CIIE) at the National Exhibition and Convention Center
The Tesla Model X | Guo Zhihua/VCG via Getty Images

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The reason owners could receive $16,000 compensation each is that the company never responded to the lawsuit. So those owners that were part of the lawsuit automatically received the judgment. Over 10,000 owners of these Model S and X vehicles could be eligible. But worse, it could lay the groundwork for lawsuits in other countries to move forward. 

Tesla now has a few weeks to respond to the judgment. This was found in an arbitration court which is Norway’s lowest level of civil court. It may feel that precedent can only apply if the award came from a higher court. 

This paints a bad picture of Tesla on different levels

Elon Musk stands outside of a Tesla crossover vehicle.
Elon Musk outside of a Tesla | Justin Sullivan via Getty Images

Whether that speculation is true or not it paints a picture of suspicious activity on Tesla’s part. From a PR perspective, not responding was a really dumb move. Maybe it thought that dignifying the trial would lend too much attention and credence? 

Now that the judgment has been applied, it will be forced to respond or be on the hook for millions of dollars. And all of these negative issues and responses will be exposed in due fashion.  Until then, we’ll wait and see what Tesla’s next move will be.