Ford wants US$150 for a map update, Tesla really did change the game with free OTA updates

Tesla Model 3 owner Glenn Fischbach also owns a 2017 Ford Focus Electric and today shared a very stark contrast in how updates are delivered between the two automakers.

Fischbach received a letter from Ford alerting him to the fact that his 3 year old vehicle was ‘Due for a Map Update! In 2020, most services are delivered over the internet, including software updates. From your phone, to your gaming console and your desktop operating system, updates are delivered for free for the life of the device.

Being a Tesla owner, Fischbach is very familiar with this also being the experience in his Model 3, however the other vehicle in his garage has a very different experience.

In the detailed letter, Ford explains the 2017 Ford Focus (electric) is due for a Sync 3 Navigation Map Update. The letter continues to detail the advantages of the update.

Improve your driving experience with optimized route recommendations, real-time traffic updates, and advice on local points of interest. Did you see that new coffee shop on the way to work? We’ll show you.

Stay safe and informed with the latest road construction updates, one-way street changes, and new speed limit restrictions. Be prepared for that 45-mph zone near the grocery store that was just reduced to 35mph.

Save time and money thanks to fewer lost miles and less wasted gas looking for your destination, so you can spend more time enjoying the journey.

So the update sounds like something you definitely want, so how does Glenn get the update? Well here’s where things get ugly.

Ford wants owners like Glenn to schedule an appointment with their nearest Ford Dealership and take his car in to have the software update applied.

In 2020, it’s pretty unacceptable and incredibly inconvenient (especially in the middle of a pandemic) to require a physical appointment.

There is another option for customers wanting this map update, that’s to have a pre-loaded USB shipped to them directly. Presumably owners can handle plugging in a drive, accepting a couple of prompts on the display and waiting for it to update, this isn’t something that requires Ford expertise.

Not only do you have to request this, then wait for this drive to be delivered to you, but Ford wants to charge you US$149.00 (A$204.03) for the privilege. Obviously, that’s ridiculous in today’s context when software updates are delivered for free. I’d really love to hear Ford try to justify this price tag.

Obviously, there’s some work involved in updating Maps, but that gets amortised across the entire Sync 3 fleet, of which there are millions of cars. The actual USB drive is dirt cheap, with a 32GB USB drive costing just A$6.19 from Office Works. Even the time taken to copy the software to a USB drive and get that shipped out could in no way justify the price tag.

Later in the Model 3 Facebook group post, Glenn confirmed he has no intention of paying for the update, which I’d expect goes for every other 2017 Focus Electric owner.

Compared to the free, over-the-air updates delivered by Tesla, this is a night and day experience between the automakers.

As Ford prepares to begin customer deliveries of their second and most import EV program, the Mach-E, I really hope they’ve had a severe rethink on OTA updates because this certainly won’t fly.

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I had a software update in my Model 3 yesterday. For those unfamiliar with how simple things can be, let me detail the Tesla way. A notification is sent to your phone, via the Tesla app. This alerts you that an update is available.

If your car is connected to WiFi (like it is in your garage), you simply tap to install the update now.

Around 25 minutes later you’re notified the installation is complete and when you next enter your car, the release notes are presented on the display.

Tesla does an excellent job at making this regularly (usually monthly) update process, simple, free and convenient.

Comparing the two experiences here shows how Tesla changed consumer expectations in what’s possible and then quickly after, what’s expected in a modern vehicle.

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Jason Cartwright
Jason Cartwright
Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis. Disclaimer: Tesla Shareholder from 20/01/2021


  1. Same experience with my 2016 Ford Explorer Sport! They want me to PAY for a map update, which I refuse to do because their navigation system is so archaic that I use my cell phone instead. Out of curiosity, test drove a 2020 For Explorer ST a few days ago while my Explorer was getting its 2nd set of new front brake rotors and pads. While Ford has made some major improvements in the Explorer, the new navigation systems is only slightly better than the 2016 model and light years behind my Tesla Model X navigation system. I would have thought that Ford would be learning from Tesla, but it doesn’t appear so! Monster trucks that cost nearly US $100k, Expeditions for US $80k and Explorers for US $60k+ means they are already in the Tesla price range for a vehicle that is an antique compared to a Tesla! Just my humble opinion!😊

    • I share the frustration. My 2017 Focus Electric was made in May of 2017, and was loaded with a 2015 map. Two years old coming off of the assembly line. I took ownership in February of 2019 and the vehicle still had the 2015 map. Inquiring about an update, the update website stated that a new update would be available in June 2019. June comes and the message stays the same. July and the message is the same. August and the message is the same. In September the website says that the update is unavailable from this website and to go to another website. At that website, the update is $109 USD. I have read that the map provided is a 2018 map. F me. I have never received any official correspondence from Ford regarding my Focus Electric. What is odd is that the map is free for other regions, but not the U.S.

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