A Persian carpet store near my house once had a "Going out of Business" sale. When I saw the big signs all over its windows I thought I might be able to get a good deal on a carpet. Nothing caught my eye. I noticed a year latter that a store at the same location had another going out of business sale. I assumed that it had changed ownership and the new owners had run into the trouble. Then it happened a few more times. The going out business sales were a sham. The ownership stayed the same. To me their credibility went to zilch.
What does this have to do with Tesla? I bought a Model S instead of a Model 3 in part because Tesla announced that the lifetime free supercharging was about to be dropped. I timed my purchase to take advantage of the window Tesla gave buyers to retain the free supercharging. I think the reversal, of what clearly had been an announcement to boost sales before the end of the last quarter of 2016, feels like actions of the Persian carpet dealer. It undermines Tesla's credibility.
I draw a distinction between the big price drop on the 60 KWh to 75 KWh upgrade (from $9K to $2K) and the reinstatement of the free supercharging. Some buyers were upset by the price drop after they had paid the $9K. Tesla has every right to lower its prices. Each buyer has to decide whether this upgrade made financial sense given their driving patterns and how they value the extra time at superchargers by the smaller battery capacity required on long trips. If someone decided it was worth the $9K, then they got what they paid for. What is different about the reinstatement of the free supercharging is that Tesla used the announced end of the free charging to temporarily boost sales.
I am not claiming that I have been harmed by others subsequently getting the free lifetime supercharging. My claim is that Tesla will be harmed in the long term. On pricing they need to think long term instead of focussing on end-of-year financials. Elon Musk has described Tesla's pricing policy as being tied to the cost of production. He claims that Tesla prices to have a 25% profit margin. That is a sound long term strategy. However, it was obviously not followed in the case of the pricing of the software limited 60 KWh as there was no cost of production difference between the 60KWh and the 75KWh.
I do not know who within Tesla sets the prices on over-the-air upgrades, options on new orders, and services such as supercharging and the extended warranties. Admittedly, the lifetime costs of providing some of these items may be hard to figure but Tesla's decisions seems to be driven by marketing rather than cost. In spite of Elon Musk's often repeated mantra of going back to first principles of economics and physics in making decision, the company seems to be weak on economics expertise. (disclosure, I have a PhD in economics). For example, their pricing scheme for superchargers, with a per kilowatt charge and a congestion charge, struck me as a particularly inept application of the what economists call the optimal two-part tariff problem.
Whether they set a price at the optimal level is secondary. What is more important is that their pricing policy maintain the company's reputation. Otherwise buyers will feel like they are dealing with a sleazy carpet merchant.