Tesla slashes the price of its media unit upgrade amid controversy

Tesla is slashing the price of its media unit upgrade for Model S and Model X by $1,000.

While the move would generally be welcomed by owners, some are skeptical of Tesla’s intentions amid the controversy around a potential recall.

Tesla media unit (MCU) upgrade

Tesla’s native car infotainment system is one of its best features to differentiate itself against other automakers, and it showcases Tesla’s lead with in-car over-the-air software updates.

However, Tesla changed the media units inside its Model S and Model X in 2018 with a more powerful one, and several major recent software upgrades have introduced a lot of new features that require more computer power than the MCU in older Tesla vehicles has.

It results in new cars getting new features like Tesla Theater, integrated DashCam and Sentry Mode, and more, while pre-2018 vehicles are stuck without those features.

Last year, Tesla started officially offering a $2,500 infotainment upgrade to change the media unit inside older Model S and Model X vehicles in order for owners to access those new features and get a more responsive center display.

Now we learn that Tesla slashed the price of the media unit upgrade by $1,000 overnight.

The automaker writes on its website:

Owners of compatible vehicles can schedule an appointment through the Tesla app for purchase and installation. This upgrade is available for $1,500 plus applicable tax, including installation.

Tesla didn’t give an explanation for the massive 40% price reduction on the upgrade.

Potential recall

Generally, this would be a welcomed price reduction, but the move is suspicious amid a potential recall related to Tesla’s older media unit that the automaker is currently fighting.

Owners of older Tesla Model S and Model X vehicles have been reporting some issues with their MCUs.

The touchscreen becomes less responsive, the power-up time becomes longer, the screen freezes and has to be rebooted, or there is even total failure of the MCU unit.

Some owners believe that it is a problem with the embedded Multi-Media-Card memory (eMMC) in the MCU and that it is being overwritten to the point of failure.

It has been known as the “eMMC failure” problem.

Tesla introduced a new MCU in 2018 that doesn’t have the same problem, but owners of older vehicles are still experiencing the problem in having to replace the unit out of warranty, despite seeing Tesla’s mistake as the source of the problem instead of a normal issue that occurs over time.

Last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said that it has launched an official investigation into the matter, and last week the regulators officially asked Tesla to recall the vehicles affected.

The agency confirmed that it met with Tesla over the issue and evaluated all the information, but it determined that losing capacity of the MCU is a safety issue since a lot of important functions go through the system like windshield defogging, audible chimes, and even turn signals can be impacted.

Tesla has been resisting the recall, but it’s possible NTHSA ends up forcing it on the automaker.

Electrek‘s take

This massive price reduction could easily be interpreted as Tesla trying to make the owners pay for a recall that is due to a confirmed defect in its media unit.

That’s a bad look on Tesla.

Now it’s not exactly that simple since people who opt for that upgrade would get more than what they would get if you simply replace the eMMC, but the timing from Tesla is still suspicious.

Some owners who have had issues with Tesla fixing the MCU under warranty could be tempted to go for this upgrade if Tesla is not forced to fix the issue under a recall.

Either way, like I reported last week when NHTSA formally asked Tesla to do a recall, I think Tesla mishandled this entire eMMC situation. It needs to own up to it and stand behind its product, which currently has a defect in it.

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