Tesla is burning its solar roof customers with a huge price increase

Tesla has dramatically increased the price for its solar roof, angering some customers who have responded by canceling their orders. The news was first reported over the weekend by Electrek.

The price jumps come as Tesla reports increasing revenue from its solar business. During the fourth quarter of 2020, the company installed 86 mega-watts (MW) of solar energy, a 59 percent increase year over year. For the entire year, Tesla installed 205 MW of solar energy, an 18 percent increase compared to 2019.

Tesla offers two solar products: solar panels, which are installed over a customer’s existing roof; and a solar roof, which replaces the current roof slats with ones capable of soaking up the sun’s rays and transforming it into energy.

Now, prices for Tesla’s solar roof product are starting to go up dramatically. One solar roof customer told The Verge he signed a contract in February to install the solar roof for $35,000, with an additional $30,000 for the batteries.

Later, he received a “terse email” from Tesla stating that in several days he would receive a new contract with higher prices. He was told he now owed $75,000 for the solar roof — a 114 percent increase — and $35,000 for the batteries.

This person was told he could cancel his order via a customer portal if he chose not to accept the new terms, with the implicit threat that the installation project would be delayed if he didn’t accept the new terms right away.

Here is the email he received from Tesla:

We have increased the price of Solar Roof and have added adjustments for individual roof complexity. Learn More

You will receive an email in the next 1-2 days when your new agreement is ready for your review and acceptance before moving forward. If you are no longer interested in moving forward with Solar Roof, you can cancel your order by logging into your Tesla Account and your deposit will automatically be refunded.

We will be prioritizing customers based on the order in which they accept their updated agreements.

However, he discovered there was no way to cancel his order through the customer portal, requiring him to track down a Tesla customer service representative to complete the cancellation. The customer told The Verge that he was disappointed by the price increase because it’s been difficult to find a decent alternative to what Tesla was offering. His emails to the company’s reps went unanswered for weeks until a friend of his who worked at Tesla was able to connect him to the right person.

“It’s painful to move on, but the customer service / sales process was really painful even before this change,” he said.

Some customers told Electrek that they had spent thousands of dollars on loans and to clear trees in preparation for the solar roof installation only to later find out they owed tens of thousands of dollars more to Tesla.

It’s an abrupt shift for Tesla compared to three years ago, when the company was slashing prices for its solar roofs in an attempt to halt a decline in its home energy business. It also comes several years after Tesla unveiled a glass version of its solar panels, a third version of the company’s design that was supposed to be quicker and cheaper to install.

In its latest earnings report, Tesla said it was picking up the pace of installations. “This growth is the result of meaningful improvements to our solar retrofit strategy, including product simplification, cost reduction and industry-leading pricing,” the company said. “We have also made great progress growing our Solar Roof deployments, as we have expanded the team while simultaneously improving our installation efficiency.”

A spokesperson for Tesla did not respond to a request for comment, which isn’t surprising considering the company has eliminated its public relations department and hasn’t responded to a request for comment in over a year.

Musk originally unveiled the solar roof in October 2016 on the set of Desperate Housewives. Around the same time, Tesla was in the middle of acquiring SolarCity — a company founded by Musk’s cousins. That deal stirred up controversy, with critics calling it a “bailout” of the struggling SolarCity.

A number of Tesla shareholders even sued Musk over the deal, alleging he overvalued SolarCity and claiming he did not properly recuse himself from the deal. Tesla’s board of directors settled the suit last year without Musk, leaving the CEO the lone defendant in the case.

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