Tesla is making a promise about its cars that it won’t be able to keep: Gene Munster (TSLA)

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  • One element of Tesla‘s unorthodox sales strategy has drawn criticism from Gene Munster, a managing partner at the venture capital firm Loup Ventures and prominent Tesla bull.
  • Since October 2016, the automaker has sold what it calls “full self-driving capability,” which it says will give vehicles the ability to drive without human assistance once the necessary software is ready and receives regulatory approval.
  • But on its website, Tesla says it doesn’t know when that will happen.
  • Munster said he doesn’t think Tesla will be able to fulfill its promise that all vehicles sold since October 2016 will be able to support fully self-driving technology.

Tesla takes an unorthodox approach to selling cars, using its website and company-owned stores, rather than independent dealerships. One element of its sales strategy is particularly unusual and has drawn criticism from Gene Munster, a managing partner at the venture capital firm Loup Ventures and prominent Tesla bull.

Since October 2016, the automaker has sold what it calls “full self-driving capability.” For $3,000 (or $5,000 if purchased after delivery), customers can double the number of cameras on their vehicles from four to eight, which Tesla says will give them the ability to drive without human assistance once the necessary software is ready and receives regulatory approval. But on its website, Tesla says it doesn’t know when that will happen.

Selling a feature without giving any timeline for its availability is unusual in any industry, and Munster said he doesn’t think Tesla will be able to fulfill its promise that all vehicles sold since October 2016 will be able to support fully self-driving technology.

“I’m surprised they sell it,” he said.

Munster said he believes fully-autonomous vehicles won’t arrive for five to 10 years, and that Tesla will have to refund the customers who bought the self-driving hardware for incompatible vehicles or offer them discounts on newer Tesla vehicles. While he said he hasn’t seen sales data for the self-driving hardware package, he said he believes the uptake on it is relatively small compared to Autopilot, Tesla’s semi-autonomous driver assistance package. 

“I don’t think that a lot of people actually have taken up on that option,” he said.

Munster said he is optimistic about Tesla’s long-term potential, citing the company’s integrated approach to software and hardware, which he compared to Apple’s. And in a note published on September 17, he and the Loup Ventures associate Will Thompson wrote that Tesla has the “best-positioned” slate of upcoming products in the tech industry, which they wrote will be able to capitalize on growth in the markets for electric vehicles, autonomous driving technology, and sustainable energy.

But, in addition to the company’s decision to sell the self-driving hardware package, Munster said he’s concerned about Tesla CEO Elon Musk‘s behavior, which in recent months has included tweets that have attracted lawsuits and reported investigations from government agencies, reported concerns from Tesla’s board of directors about his use of Ambien, and a clash with Wall Street analysts.

Have a Tesla news tip? Contact this reporter at mmatousek@businessinsider.com.

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SEE ALSO: Two Tesla bulls say the company is wrong about one key part of its self-driving car strategy

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