Not the gift owners expected, or asked for, or ever wanted

Tesla loves giving surprises. They are always on the lookout for new ways to keep the customers excited and looking forward to new adventures. On Labor Day, the company decided to astonish the owners once again. How, you ask? By locking them out of their cars! Many owners were left stranded outside their cars when Tesla’s Phone Key app experienced failure for a brief period. Looks like Tesla took the Labor Day off to the next level. But, let’s cut them some slack and leave them ‘Elon’. The company was enjoying Labor Day, too!

There Needs To Be An Alternative Apart From The Keycard or the Key Fob

To brief you before we dive into it, Tesla’s official app has a feature that turns your smartphone into a key. You don’t have to use the physical key as long as your phone is with you in person. The Model 3 is a little different as it uses Bluetooth Low Energy frequencies instead of a network connection to communicate with the car. This is an excerpt from the Model 3’s support page:

“A paired Phone Key uses Bluetooth frequencies instead of a network connection to communicate with your Model 3. This means that if you’re parked in an underground parking garage with no cell signal on either your phone or your car, you can still lock, unlock, and start your vehicle without issue”.

The Model S and Model X, however, do not use Bluetooth connectivity and need the phone’s cellular connectivity at all times.

What If There Was An Emergency?

Coming back to the matter, at around 1600 hours (Pacific Time), Tesla’s Phone Key app went kaput. Tesla says the outage was for a brief period, but some owners have reported being locked out for almost four hours. NBC Bay Area checked and found that the app was indeed down for almost four hours. The company says the issue was fixed as soon at it was reported. Some of the owners were, in fact, stuck at Supercharger stations and had their cars plugged in longer than necessary.

This bloke has named his Tesla ‘Carmen Electra’!! Dude, if you’re reading this, I doff my hat to you!

This, obviously, did not go down well with the owners and they made sure the world got to know about it. One such owner, Kyle Field from CleanTechnica, told Car and Driver:

"I opened the app to use summon to back my car into a spot with better visibility and the app did not come up. I reloaded it, and it came up with the login screen. Having seen a few tweets about an outage, I assumed that was the problem and added my name to the list. A few tweets later, I realized that all that was needed was to log in again."

Strike Two, Tesla

2018 Tesla Model 3
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Tesla, however, was not in a mood to take a blame and said that if the owners had followed the owner’s manual, which clearly states that they should carry the physical key with them at all times, they wouldn’t have had the problem in the first place. But, this is not the first time the Phone Key app has caused a problem. Some media control units were replaced in 2018 and the digital certificates were not transferred properly. This also left owners stranded out of their cars when they tried to use the app to unlock it. I guess these two instances are enough for you to be cautious and carry the key fob with you at all times.

Hope The Model Y Comes With A Permanent, Not-So-Troubling Solution

2020 Tesla Model Y
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The Model 3 and its ‘entry system’ has been in news forever. The company initially launched the car with a key card, but it drew polarizing opinions. Even Musk was quoted saying, "we [Tesla] really need to provide a normal key to the customers of the car.” Soon, the company came out with a wonder-blunder – a key fob. The key fob was sold for $150 a pop and was sold out pretty soon when the first batch came out. It looked pretty cool; sleek black clicker inscribed with the Tesla logo. However, it literally nullified the whole purpose of introducing a key fob – it did not have passive entry. Basically, the Model 3 will not unlock when you approach it with the fob on you; you will have to walk up to the car and press the fob to enter - just like every other car built since the early 1990s. A not-so-high-tech feature in a high-tech car. Delete a feature, substitute it with a fancy thing, enjoy the hype and praises, and then reintroduce the old feature again. Have we seen a similar pattern elsewhere before? Cough… Apple… Cough.

Did you ever face any such issue with your Tesla in the past? Share your instances with us in the comments section below.

Model Price before savings Price after savings
Base Standard Range $US35,400 $US27,350
Standard Range Plus $US39,900 $US31,815
Long Range $US49,900 $US41,850
Performance $US59,900 $US51,851

Further reading

Tesla Model 3 Owners Had a Very Nice Labor Day Gift from Tesla This Year Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2018 Tesla Model 3.

Sidd Dhimaan
Associate Editor and Truck Expert -
Sidd joined the team in 2017 as an intern and in less than a year he earned a full-time position as an associate editor and junior automotive expert. He is currently our pickup truck expert and focuses his attention on heavy-duty and off-road vehicles.  Read More
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