By on November 13, 2016

Tesla Supercharger

With lengthy repair times, parts shortages, and colossal distances between locations, Tesla is having real difficulties effectively servicing its current customer base as complaints begin to mount.

While certainly unfortunate news, this will be nothing compared to what it will face when the upcoming Model 3 starts needing the EV equivalent of an oil change.

Automotive News has spoken to numerous consumers that seem genuinely concerned with the company’s gradually lengthening wait times for routine maintenance and necessary repairs.

“With my early Model S, they did a good job and fixed every issue immediately,” said Ethan Shapiro, a project manager from Miami. “Now that the company has grown, service has become a problem.”

Shapiro traded in his Model S for a Model X in January 2015 and noticed a window wouldn’t close properly in September of this year. His local Tesla service center said it would not have an available opening for ten days.

“That’s a long time for a $130,000 car,” Shapiro said.

He previously had to wait almost a week for Tesla to fix a faulty door latch on his electric SUV — a fairly common problem.

Automotive News says Shapiro isn’t alone:

Other owners have experienced even longer wait times. Chris Terry, a 31-year-old platform engineer at Kenzan Media in Denver, was told in August that it would be five weeks before the service center could repair the cracked windshield on his Model S. Tesla advised him to take the car to Safelite, which ended up breaking the rearview mirror and cracking the windshield in another area. Though Tesla replaced the mirror and Safelite agreed to fix the windshield for free, Terry still is waiting on the glass repair because of a shortage in parts specific to his vehicle.

“It worries me, in a sense,” Terry said. Though his delays have been with “low-priority issues,” other Tesla drivers have told him that “long delays in scheduling aren’t any better when you do have a high-priority problem.”

Another problem: Tesla service centers are few and far between. Shapiro expressed annoyance in having to drive an hour to get his Model X serviced, and it isn’t as if Tesla owners can take their electric vehicles to a local mechanic. The company only has 61 service centers, with most located near the same handful of cities. The rest are extremely spread out.

For example, Tesla has a service center in Salt Lake City with the next closest being a 421 mile drive to Las Vegas. The next closest service center is over 500 miles away in Denver, CO. That’s not exactly convenient, even with Supercharger stations along the way.

Although Karl Brauer, executive publisher at Autotrader, says Tesla owners might not even care. He doesn’t think that the lengthy service delays have a major effect on the brand since most owners are less likely to rely solely on their premium EV for transportation.

Future Model 3 owners will be less tolerant and much more likely to need daily access to their vehicles, however. With Tesla also hoping to increase annual production to 500,000 units in 2018, Tesla will need to make a serious effort to increase the number of accredited service centers or suddenly become much more comfortable with allowing independent companies to work on its customers’ cars.

[Image: Tesla]

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39 Comments on “Tesla Service Includes a Long Wait or a Long Drive — or Both...”

  • avatar

    TTAC you guys know you shouldnt spread propaganda. You guys know that Tesla owners would never put up with things like that. If you keep this up you will tick off alot of EV readers here.

  • avatar
    Old Man Pants

    Whatevs… T***a is as totally yesterday as H*****y.

  • avatar

    And to think Tesla owners have paid so much for buying their cars.

  • avatar

    This article is such crap.

    Is it really a news flash when you find two guys on the Internet having a bad service experience with their Tesla?

    I’ve owned 3 BMWs, and I’ve had service much worse than anything written on this article, yet I don’t see a TTAC newsflash about it. And yes, I’m biased. I’m on my second Tesla, and the reliability and service experience is 1000x better than any dealership I’ve dealt with.

    Next up – TTAC visits the Toyota forums and concludes that all Toyotas owners have bad service experiences.

    • 0 avatar

      Thats strange. I have had excellent service from the two BMW dealers Ive used in Ventura County CA.

    • 0 avatar

      Lol, you wish it was just two guys and this one article. Yep, all just some anti-Tesla smear campaign. Please pick up your tinfoil hat in the lobby.

      Are BMW dealers that far apart? Are BMWs unable to be serviced by places other than BMW dealers? Even for windshields? Did your BMWs cost well over $100k?

  • avatar

    Speaking as a Tesla owner (and infrequent TTAC author), I’ve been nothing but thrilled with my Tesla service experiences. It’s about time for my annual checkup, wherein I have a list of a number of small items to be fixed. We’ll see how they do.

  • avatar

    The lazy sloppy tone of this article should be beneath this site. “Whatever the electric car oil change equivalent is” for model 3 owners?

    Modern electric cars have been out for nearly 6 years now. There is no equivalent, it’s one of the benefits.

    Sure, Tesla has quality and servicing issues, but that’s to be expected, they are a young company, let’s see how they handle the next phase with the model 3 ramp up.

  • avatar

    It’s worth noting here that Tesla makes it very, very difficult for anybody else to service the car. Whatever else you want to say about regular dealerships and independent mechanics there is strong competition among a lot of places that could potentially repair your car. That, plus an open market for parts, helps keep repair prices reasonable. As Teslas start aging out of warranty in large numbers, and acquire second or third owners, this is going to be an interesting story to see play out.

    • 0 avatar
      healthy skeptic

      Agreed, they should probably open up the servicing, and in fact, I’m a little puzzled that they don’t. I can understand why they want to only do direct sales, but don’t see the need to only do repairs. Let third parties help handle that headache.

      And no, for all you dealer apologists out there, it doesn’t have to be a franchise relationship. Just find high-end, reputable repairs shops in various regions and offer then a certification program. Tesla authorizes them to conduct warranty work on its behalf, and Tesla picks up the bill in the end. Then these shops can help on the out-of-warranty workload as well.

      • 0 avatar

        It seems to me they want to copy Apple as much as possible, so it’s not surprising they want control from day of purchase to end of life. If you know anything about Apple computer repair, you know that Apple doesn’t publish any schematics and makes it as hard as possible for non-Apple technicians to do any kind of repair from replacing batteries to screens on I-phones.

  • avatar

    I have a Model 3 reserved – but my completing the purchase of the vehicle depends on two things:

    1. The availability of the $7500 credit.
    2. The availability of a reasonably close service center.

    As it stands now, the closest Tesla service center is an hour away from me. That is way too far. If the service situation doesn’t improve by my Model 3’s delivery date – I will probably opt to have my deposit refunded.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      As an early Model 3 reservist, I’m not too worried about the credit.

      But the service center concerns me a lot; I believe I’m also about an hour away from one.

      More mundanely, I won’t buy without a test drive, and I have concerns about the ergonomics of the plain dash/info center layout.

      And, I will not be buying a $50k Model 3 when equipped with a few options, so I hope they keep the prices under control.

  • avatar

    This is the sort of thing that happens when companies don’t have adequate funds to build out resources.

    Since service is a cost and not a profit center for Tesla, you should expect things to get worse as the existing cars get older and there are more of them.

    • 0 avatar

      If it got bad enough and there was demand, shouldn’t we see third party service centers?

      • 0 avatar

        At this point, there is a brand management and scale problem.

        The vendors won’t care about the brand nearly as much as does Tesla.

        There isn’t enough business to make it that interesting for many; it would require infrastructure investments without much payoff, given how few cars there are.

        The mass market repair shops such as Pep Boys would cheapen the brand and compromise the customer experience to the point that it would harm sales. They are a bad option.

        Trying to create a relationship with existing dealerships for other brands creates the same problem that the direct sales model is attempting to avoid, namely having a dependence on third parties that are highly motivated to steer Tesla customers to competitors’ products while devoting minimal effort to educating the customer. The commission sales model is bad at this stage of the business because the sales people care about cashing in fast, not in building brand loyalty.

        I would think that the best interim solution would be form some third-party relationships behind the scenes, which keep the customer relationship restricted to Tesla company representatives. In that example, the customer deals with a guy at a Tesla store, but the actual work gets farmed out to a third party who the customer never sees. But again, this won’t work without scale, which means that it will only work in markets where sales are relatively high.

    • 0 avatar

      The capital cost of having a nationwide retail distribution and service network is one of the reasons that auto manufacturers put up with their independent dealer networks. Tesla has some worthwhile ideas, but repairing their cars in the field with something like postage paid envelopes probably isn’t one of them.

    • 0 avatar

      The one thing about Tesla that would worry me if I was interested in opening a third party service center is the fact that they could just brick the car remotely since they’re all connected. They already have done that. There was a man who bought a totaled Tesla and he fixed it. He couldn’t get Tesla to let the car run. There is a downside to your car being completely at the mercy of the company that built your car.

  • avatar

    Go the Elio route and outsource to Pep Boys.
    Or even better, BUY Pep Boys from Carl Icahn, it was only a bil, Musk could rename it Juice Boys and probably run the stock valuation to double what Carl paid.

  • avatar

    Service functions are not profitable at this time, due to the fact that somewhere near 100% of repairs are covered under warranty.

    As Teslas age out of warranty, service becomes increasingly more profitable. Unlike every other make of car, a Tesla can not be serviced by an independent garage (in most cases).

    You probably won’t take a 150,000 mile Chevrolet to the dealer for repairs, so as cars that aren’t Teslas age out of warranty they become less profitable for manufacturers. Not so with Tesla.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Well, this is the problem as Tesla attempts to scale up from a pricey toy purchased by customers in a few cities to a larger scale. I would think that Tesla would have an interest in maintaining the value of their products, and part of doing that involves providing post-warranty service, not to mention warranty service.

    I think Tesla will have to form relationships with independent shops in multiple cities to expand its “repair footprint.” That won’t be easy, since finding good independent shops and persuading them to invest in the tools and training to properly service an EV will be tough . . . unless, of course Tesla picks up the tab for that.

    In the meantime, one short-term solution is to form relationship with flat bed tow operators who will provide long-distance transport for Teslas needing repair from their owners’ homes, with either Tesla picking up the tab or partially subsidizing the cost born by owners.

  • avatar

    Tesla should buy Saturn dealerships while they could. I never owned Saturn for obvious reasons but had been few times in their dealerships few times for test drive and was was impressed. No BS, pressure and good knowledge of the product they sell.

  • avatar

    I have seen Tesla send a flatbed out to pick up the customer’s car at his workplace, trailed by loaner Tesla that they slipped right into the same parking spot for the guy. Maybe that was an exceptional case, or maybe only the early adopters got that level of pampering, but the few Tesla owners I’ve met were satisfied with the service.

    Less so the Toyota RAV4 EV owners though; their vehicle has a Tesla powertrain and a tendency toward two costly failures (a loud milling noise in the drive unit, and a short-lived electric heater unit) with sometimes long waits for replacement parts. To be fair, neither problem stops the car from running, and most to date have had those repairs covered under warranty. I wouldn’t buy one used without either a Toyota Platinum warranty or one of those covers-everything CarMax warranties though.

  • avatar

    BMW and Porsche have the same issues. If you do your research and buy a good car, others have likely done the same and reached the same conclusion. Therefore the brand is busy in general and the dealers can’t keep up. Service is lacking. Multiple visits to fix the same problem.

    My friends with Teslas have only good things to say about the brand. The experience does not need to be “perfect” as the experience with other brands is never “perfect”.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    Waiting 10 days for a non-critical appointment isn’t unusual. Modern dealerships don’t pay techs to hang-out, waiting for customers to drive in.

    The best local Toyota dealer is booking 2 weeks out (mind you, it is tire-swap season). The best local body shop is booking January/February 2017.

    Loved the Earth-shaking news that there aren’t any Tesla dealers between Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, or between SLC and Denver! There’s not much else around there.

  • avatar

    Garbage article, I know you need to generate income but this is rubbish.

  • avatar
    Brett Woods

    Really, does TTAC need to publish every fluff submission it gets right away? Save them, nurture them, expand them, vet them, and group them. Give the B&B time to go deep. To me this is a reader’s sight. 5 articles in 24hrs is more than enough for me to absorb and read the comments on. Automotive News may say “Shapiro isn’t alone” but what does TTAC’s examination of the subject say?

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