The automaker nixes free lifetime Standard Connectivity for new orders, requiring a subscription to keep features like navigation working for the long haul.
Buyers placing orders for a new Tesla Model S, Model 3, Model X or Model Y this week will no longer receive free Standard Connectivity for the lifetime of their vehicle, thanks to a change in the automaker's connectivity policy. New orders will now include just eight years of the Standard Connectivity package before it expires, requiring owners to pony up for a subscription to Tesla's Premium Connectivity tier to continue using features like "maps, navigation, voice commands and more," according to Tesla's website.
Teslarati discovered that a change in the Connectivity section of Tesla's support page placed an expiration date on the lifetime Standard Connectivity features:
"All new Tesla vehicles ordered on or before July 20, 2022, will have Standard Connectivity features at no cost for the lifetime of the vehicle... As additional features and services become available in the future, you will have the opportunity to upgrade your connectivity plan."
Elsewhere on the same page, Tesla clarifies the new eight-year limitation that comes with new vehicle purchases, stating:
"All Tesla vehicles come with access to Standard Connectivity. Standard Connectivity is included in your vehicle, at no additional cost, for eight years beginning on the first day your vehicle was delivered as new by Tesla, or the first day it is put into service (for example used as a demonstrator or service vehicle), whichever comes first. If you are purchasing a used vehicle, you will be notified of how long your vehicle will include access to Standard Connectivity."
Tesla's support page doesn't specify subscription pricing for the Standard Connectivity after the initial eight years, most likely because it doesn't intend to offer it. Rather, the automaker will likely try to entice users to upgrade to its Premium Connectivity subscription. This upper tier currently costs $9.99 monthly (or $99 annually) and rolls in navigation, live traffic, satellite maps and the automaker's Sentry Mode camera monitoring as well as other other data-intensive connected entertainment features like video, music and Caraoke streaming, and also web browsing on vehicles that support it.
The Standard Connectivity package only includes basic apps and navigation software, leaving more-advanced cloud features confined to Wi-Fi connectivity. If Tesla's going to require a subscription anyway, the Premium tier is simply a better value over the bare-bones Standard kit.
Obviously, Tesla asking customers to pay a recurring fee for basic navigation -- something that until last month was free -- feels like a bit of a bummer, but I get it. Cellular data isn't free and users are paying for an ongoing service and getting something in return, which makes this less egregious than, say, locking heated seats behind a subscription. Plus, eight years is in the ballpark for the average length of car ownership, so many owners may never feel the sting. (Used car buyers, on the other hand, almost certainly will.)
However, it is still a bummer, especially considering Tesla's infotainment lacks third-party navigation alternatives like the widely supported Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity, essentially locking buyers into that subscription if they want turn-by-turn directions after the initial eight-year grace period.
This isn't the first time Tesla has rolled back the level of connectivity offered on its vehicles. The automaker previously offered lifetime Premium Connectivity on Tesla Model S, X and certain configurations of Model 3 before introducing Standard Connectivity and requiring a subscription for the top tier for all vehicles sold on or after July 1, 2018.