Rumor: Tesla Model S Refresh, Price Upgrade Coming in April. Tesla Declines to Comment

Unlike most automakers, who wait until the end of a model year before introducing new features or pricing policies, California automaker Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TLSA] makes changes to its cars and and when those changes are ready for market.

Usually, those changes come in the form of a battery pack upgrade, a performance upgrade, or a new feature like additional autopilot functionality. Usually, those upgrades happen almost seamlessly and in some cases, come as something of a surprise bonus extra to the customer who placed the order.

With a rumored 100 kWH battery pack, a price increase would make sense.

With a rumored 100 kWH battery pack, a price increase would make sense.

Nevertheless, we’ve learned that when a rumor hits about upcoming upgrades to Tesla’s flagship electric sedan, it’s usually true.

So when Tesla fan site Teslarati ran a story earlier today claiming that there’s a price increase — and possibly a model refresh — on the way for the Tesla Model S, we sat up and took notice.

Citing multiple members of the Tesla Motors Club forum, the fan site says that multiple Tesla owners claim they have been told by Tesla Store staff across the U.S. that the Tesla Model S is getting a price increase some time in April, prompting something of a sales push on Model S cars before that price increase happens. Of those, many say there will be a feature upgrade too — although haven’t been able to tie down exactly what that will be.

We think a large upgrade - like we saw with the switch to dual motor -- is unlikely this time.

We think a large upgrade – like we saw with the switch to dual motor — is unlikely this time.

Some speculate this could include a fairly major update to include new autopilot hardware, following a Reddit post last week of a Tesla Model S with large, unidentified sensors above its door-mounted rear-view mirrors. If we’re honest however, the pictures of that vehicle are in our opinion, more likely to be an autonomous Tesla Model S being developed by a third-party company such as tier-one parts supplier Bosch (which we know uses a Tesla Model S as a test bed platform).

A more likely improvement would be an incremental, expected change from the current range-topping 90 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion pack to an even-larger 100 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion pack. That upgrade, evidence of which was found embedded in Tesla’s latest over-the-air software update, would likely increase the price of a range-topping Tesla Model S by between $5,000 and $10,000.

While Tesla nor anyone else has talked specific figures, we think that guesstimate — based on the fact that Tesla charged a $3,000 premium for customers wanting to upgrade their Tesla Model S P85D to a Tesla Model S P90D model ahead of production — is about right.

As to the validity of the rumor? With so many people all reporting the same thing, we’re inclined to believe that a Tesla Model S battery pack upgrade is on the way, as well as perhaps some other minor nips and tweaks Tesla Model S specification. With all eyes turned towards the Tesla Model 3 launch at the end of this month however, we’re not expecting major upgrades to the Tesla Model S, at least not right now.

Following our usual editorial policy, we reached out to Tesla for official comment on the rumors, and were given the following statement by a company spokesperson.

We don’t comment on rumor or speculation about future releases. Tesla is constantly innovating and adding new features to our vehicles to perpetually improve Tesla vehicles for our existing and future customers. We price our vehicles consistently throughout the world which requires us to adjust pricing to foreign currency exchange rates. We have let customers know that some price changes will take effect in early April. We always encourage those interested in purchasing Model S to place their order so they can start enjoying the many benefits of Model S today. 

Do you think a revised Tesla Model S is on the way? Do you think a larger battery pack will increase sales of Tesla’s first mass-produced electric car? Or do you think that Tesla’s focus should be on bringing the Model 3 to market on budget and on time?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


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