Tesla Renews Model S Customer-Referral Program Through December

  • Carmaker's incentive plan no longer provides cash-like rewards
  • Paid trip to Model 3 unveiling event among the inducements

Review: Tesla Model S P90D, Almost Perfect

Tesla Motors Inc. is adjusting its popular but controversial Model S referral program as it extends it through the end of the year.

The incentive program was devised as a low-cost way to amplify word-of-mouth among owners who already promote Tesla to their family and friends. When the experimental program, which provided $1,000 discounts to buyers and $1,000 vouchers to customers making referrals, was announced in July, it was set to end on Oct. 31. Now the referring owners will be trying to win “unique experiences.”

The initial effort by Tesla, the electric-car maker that eschews traditional advertising and dealer networks, was blocked in Virginia, where it was considered “bird-dogging” -- illegal compensation for people not licensed to sell cars. In Tesla’s home state of California, the Department of Motor Vehicles sent the company a letter warning that the practice is illegal and that future violations may be prosecuted.

“We have adjusted the terms of the program in response to the feedback we received,” Tesla said Thursday in an e-mail to Model S and Model X owners.

Under the new program, the person with the most referrals per region -- North America, Europe and Asia -- will receive a P90D Model S with super-fast Ludicrous mode, plus an all-expenses paid trip to the Model 3 unveiling event in March with VIP access. The first to reach 10 referrals per region will receive a free Powerwall home battery with installation. Five or more referrals gets a VIP invitation to the opening of the Gigafactory near Reno, Nevada, next year.

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