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Tesla Tuesday: Referral Rewards, Merging Matters and Model Y Rival

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Hot on the heels of its Model Y announcement, Tesla has some new competition from a cross-state rival, plus an updated referral program and a few reportedly new software updates. Want the lowdown on this week’s Tesla news? Read on.

Related: Tesla Model Y: A Surprisingly Affordable Electric SUV … Eventually

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Referral Rewards Return

Tesla fans no doubt know that the automaker’s outgoing referral program, which granted six months’ free Supercharger access, ended Feb. 1. In a series of tweets, CEO Elon Musk said the program was “adding too much cost to the cars” and the “whole referral incentive system will end.”

The absence was brief. Tesla resurrected the program on March 21 but said it restructured the program to “save the company money.” When someone buys a Tesla with your referral code, both of you now get 1,000 miles of free Supercharging. Once upon a time, Tesla offered buyers free Supercharging for life at its then-fledgling network of proprietary fast-charge stations, but it scaled back on the program beginning in early 2017. Supercharger access for any new Tesla is no longer complimentary, and 1,000 miles’ worth of it could save $73 to $112 depending on the Tesla, using EPA numbers and Tesla’s nationwide charging rates per kilowatt-hour as of this writing.

If you frequented Tesla’s fast-chargers, six months of unfettered access was probably worth more. But a lucky few will find the new program far more valuable. Tesla says owners who refer other shoppers could win a Founders Series edition of the Roadster or Model Y, each signed by Musk and design chief Franz von Holzhausen.

Referrals get one chance apiece, but owners who already have unlimited Supercharger access get two chances instead. The automaker promises one drawing per month on the Model Y and one per quarter for the Roadster, both starting later this year.

Mergers and Acquiescence

Updates to Tesla’s Autopilot system may spawn a new form of M&A activity. Electrek, a website devoted to electric and plug-in technology, reports a new lane-change detection feature with Autopilot that can slow down to allow merging traffic a spot ahead of you. It’s unclear whether the system detects other motorists’ turn signals or the angle of their vehicle, or both, but the system responds with all the courtesy of a driver in North Dakota or Maine.

Zipper away, folks. That Tesla next to you might allow it, even if its driver would rather not.

Stop! Lights!

Tesla’s software updates don’t end there. The Verge reports a new feature called Autosteer Stop Light Warning can warn drivers who are using Tesla’s lane-centering Autosteer if they’re approaching an intersection and about to run the light. Notifications reportedly pop up if you’re using Autosteer and driving fast enough, drawing from camera-intuited red lights and mapping data. U.S. cars built after 2016 with Autopilot and Tesla’s full self-driving package have the feature, The Verge says.

Citing an alleged photo describing the program, Electrek adds that ASLW “may warn you in some cases if it detects that you are about to run a red light while Autosteer is in use. This is not a substitute for an attentive driver and will not stop the car.”

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Model Y Gets a Rival

Fisker_Electric_SUV_OEM.jpg Fisker electric SUV | Manufacturer image

At least initially, it didn’t seem like Tesla’s just-unveiled Model Y would have too many direct competitors, as its projected price — from about $40,000 to the mid-$70,000s — handily undercuts the small pool of all-electric SUVs on sale now or just ’round the corner.

That didn’t last long. Five days later, fellow California automaker Fisker announced plans to build a sub-$40,000 electric SUV come late 2021. Fisker, you may recall, briefly peddled an expensive plug-in car before filing for bankruptcy and selling its assets to a Chinese company, which spun a new niche automaker that sells a warmed-over version of the same car. Fisker, meanwhile, relaunched in 2016 as Fisker Inc. — no longer Fisker Automotive — and now has an SUV to take on the Model Y.

The automaker targets a starting price of less than $40,000 for the yet-unnamed model, with final pricing and drivable prototypes ready by the end of 2019 and a market launch in late 2021. With dual-motor all-wheel drive and a battery capacity of at least 80 kilowatt-hours, the SUV has a targeted 300 miles or so of range, Fisker says. Two more so-called “affordable” electric cars will follow, and the automaker will sell all of them direct to consumers (read: no dealers) with a “nationwide concierge service” in the works for vehicle maintenance. Oh, and Fisker will build the SUV at a to-be-determined U.S. facility.

But what of the automaker’s fanciful new Model S-fighting electric sedan, the EMotion? Once targeted for production in 2019, the EMotion now appears on hold. It “will now be made available after at least one of the affordable (mass-market) luxury EV models is launched,” spokeswoman Colette Killworth told Cars.com in an email.

Early customers “have been informed of the timeline modification — with some deposits already having been returned to customers until the EMotion moves closer to production,” Killworth added.

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