Commentary Auto Tech

Tesla Model 3 audio capabilities initially limited, updates coming

Want to listen to FM radio or play your own music via Bluetooth? You're not able to just yet.

Tesla

If you're a person who uses a wide variety of solutions for piping audio into the car, the Tesla Model 3 won't help you scratch that itch. In fact, it appears that your options are awfully limited, although that will change in the near future -- somewhat.

The Drive, among other outlets, came across a video walkthrough of the Tesla Model 3's infotainment system. The most interesting part of the video came during the portion that covered the audio system. It only appeared to offer Slacker Radio integration and nothing further -- no AM/FM radio, no phone music over USB radio, nothing you'd expect in a car starting at $35,000.

It should be noted that some or all of these systems can be found in vehicles as inexpensive as the sub-$15,000 Kia Rio. It's an interesting place to focus on keeping costs low.

Those USB ports? They're just for charging. This is where the sad-trombone noise gets inserted.

Tesla

When asked for comment, a Tesla spokesperson indicated that the features of the Model 3 are listed on Tesla's website. They are on the site, and that list includes "FM/Internet streaming audio" and "Bluetooth hands free calling and media streaming." There is no mention of satellite radio, nor does it mention playing audio from a phone over USB, and it's quite unclear what is meant by "Internet streaming audio," other than Slacker Radio, which is currently installed on the Model 3's infotainment system. Perhaps the automaker is referring to TTunes.

While the list shows them as standard features, the voices in the walkthrough video claimed that some of these features, like Bluetooth audio streaming, were not made available at launch and would be activated through an over-the-air update at a later time. Tesla confirmed to Roadshow that any missing functionality will be added in a future update.

Secrecy exists throughout the auto industry, but it's traditionally left to discussion of future products. Being honest and forthright from the get-go, by admitting that certain features will not be available at launch, would have been the smoothest course of action.

It's not the end of the world if something isn't immediately available, given Tesla's reliance on over-the-air updates. Heck, Tesla won't even get around to building the least expensive version of the Model 3 for some time, instead choosing to focus on variants costing around $44,000. Saying Bluetooth audio will come later is hardly going to change the opinions of die-hard reservation holders. 

Update, 6:40 p.m. Pacific: This article was updated to include a statement from a Tesla spokesperson.