Tesla just tipped to relaunch its referral program with these rewards

Tesla Model Y parked outside
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Did you know Tesla has a referral program? Tesla drivers that have a link that gets shared, earning them prizes every time someone clicked it and ordered a Tesla of their own. It launched back in 2015, to promote the brand, but inevitably started winding down in 2019 due to its cost (opens in new tab). But that might be about to change.

Teslascope, which digs around in the code for Tesla’s mobile app, found some code that suggests the referral program may be making a comeback. Specifically offering referrers the chance to earn free Supercharging, Tesla merch and even accessories for the vehicles. 

See more

It’s quite a long way off the free Tesla Roadsters that were up for grabs in the past, but that particular reward was always problematic. It’s long-been suspected that offering the chance to win a free $250,000 car played a big part in Tesla suspending the referral program. Not to mention the fact that the second generation Roadsters have been saddled with delays, and still haven’t started rolling off the production line.

But hey, any referral bonuses are better than no referral bonuses. Especially since the current referral program (opens in new tab) only applies to people with Tesla’s solar products convincing others to buy more Tesla solar products. Which is great for promoting home solar power, but isn’t quite the same as earning free Supercharging miles.

There were rumors last year (opens in new tab) suggesting Tesla could restart its referral program, but nothing official has been announced until now. Not even CEO Elon Musk, who is notorious for seemingly making product announcements on Twitter when the mood strikes him, hasn’t said anything in public. 

The only thing we did hear was that Tesla was likely to get rid of the referral link. It wasn’t uncommon to see people spamming their referral links on social media, since it allowed the referrer and buyer to earn themselves free Supercharging. Instead sources claim the referral would transition to the Tesla app, and try to promote in-person referrals. 

How that would work isn’t clear, but it likely involved the prospective buyer downloading the Tesla app themselves. Which would be worth it, if it meant the chance to recharge for next to nothing for a few months. Especially given the high cost of Superchargers and other DC charging stations.

Why would Tesla do this now? 

While we have questions about the amount of charging that would be on offer, or the products Tesla would be willing to give away, that’s not the most pressing question. Instead we have to ask why Tesla would be relaunching its referral program, especially when it was originally suspended for its high cost.

Demand for electric vehicles has been incredible this year, thanks in part to the increase in gas prices. Combined with supply chain and production issues, it got to the point where Tesla wait times were getting out of control. 

Things have stabilized a bit more in recent weeks, though some models, notably the Model X, have wait times of several months. Tesla has also made a record number of deliveries in recent months (opens in new tab).

So why would it need to encourage even more demand for its cars? There are a few possibilities, but the most notable is Tesla trying to tackle the increase in competition. All the other automakers have taken note of Tesla's success, and the majority are launching electric car lineups of their own. Some of them have been incredibly well received, which resulted in incredibly high demand. 

Giving customers incentives to promote its cars, especially given Musk’s proud boasting (opens in new tab) that Tesla doesn’t advertise in the traditional sense, is one way for the automaker to stay competitive. In any case we’ll have to see how this pans out, and what Tesla has in store for its existing and would-be customers. 

Tom Pritchard
Automotive Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's Automotive Editor, which means he can usually be found knee deep in stats the latest and best electric cars, or checking out some sort of driving gadget. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining that Ikea won’t let him buy the stuff he really needs online.