How Tesla can massively enhance the restore and repair expertise and keep away from insane restore gives
In several articles this year, my colleagues and I have covered some of the problems with Tesla service and repairs that result in extreme repair bills for customers. After discussing a few of these, I’ll go over an industry standard repair practice that Tesla could adopt and perhaps improve to address this issue.
In my case, I was on a test drive with a Model Y when one of my passengers couldn’t hold back lunch, which resulted in Tesla employees telling me the whole seat might need to be replaced. Tesla service centers, in many cases, don’t repair or replace small components, so there was a chance I was being billed for the entire row of seats just because a small amount of vomit got into one of the seat belt clickers. In most other vehicles, a seat belt clicker can be replaced for well under $ 100. For folks starting a family, throwing up and other clutter are almost inevitable, so large repair bills for a small mess aren’t a good thing.
I compared that to the Death Star in Star Wars Episode IV. In this film, the protagonists exploit a weakness in the heat dissipation system of a huge space station, which enables a small fighter-jet-like spaceship to blow up a space station the size of a moon in just one shot.
I never heard from Tesla, nor did anyone make an insurance claim about the incident, so they must either have figured out how to fix the problem or they didn’t want any more bad publicity. The fact that I was threatened with a big bill for something that would normally cost around $ 30-50 is still insane.
My colleague Jo Borrás found an even bigger Death Star type weakness when he talked about a $ 16,000 repair bill that a Tesla service center gave to a Model 3 driver. The driver ran over some debris on the road, as we all sometimes do when it is unavoidable. Unfortunately, the debris broke a plastic panel on the floor of the vehicle and hit a coolant connection to the battery pack, destroying it. At the Tesla service center, they discovered that it was part of the battery pack and that the entire pack needed to be replaced. Why? Because service centers do not open battery packs and can only replace them.
This would have been the total volume of the vehicle as the cost of replacing the package was more than half the cost of a comparable replacement, but the owner of the car decided to get a second opinion. He sought help from Rich Benoit, who runs the Rich Rebuilds Channel on YouTube. Benoit owns Electrified Garage, an independent EV repair shop, and despite the distance, the owner had his car towed across the states to get a better repair estimate from Rich.
It turned out that the battery’s thermal connection could be repaired for just $ 700. Electrified Garage found that they could fix the cracked pipe using standard installation methods because the pressure in a Tesla’s coolant system is not very high. After the crack was repaired and new coolant was poured back into the system, the car ran like nothing had ever happened.
Like Jo, my colleague Steve Hanley went into depth on the broader subject of Right To Repair. Many manufacturers besides Tesla are doing everything possible to prevent independent repairers or the owners themselves from maintaining and repairing their products. This, in turn, has sparked a whole movement against these practices, with the pace of government action accelerating. In many cases, consumers want easy access to computer interfaces and the ability to source parts from non-OEMs, as well as the ability to have independent mechanics and repair shops as effectively as possible.
Manufacturers often fight back by making copyright and security / integrity arguments against independent repairs and computer access. They would be right if their banned products did not cause real preventable financial damage to consumers.
If you want to learn more about Tesla’s mistreatment of people who want to repair their cars on their own, I recommend you check out this video below on Rich Rebuilds. It’s pretty terrible the way they treated someone who was once a huge enthusiast and supporter.
How Tesla can solve these problems, increase customer satisfaction and improve its image
Before we discuss the logistical changes required to avoid high repair bills for relatively minor issues, we need to talk about a philosophical shift that needs to take place at Tesla. The fundamental problem is that the company wants to control the vehicles when the company really should treat the vehicles like something that belongs to the customer.
There are reasons Tesla cites not to do this, but it needs to be understood that cars are simply not software. They are cars, and people have been used to being in control of their own car for generations. The idea of not being in control is not only alien to most vehicle owners, but also offensive.
Tesla must be solidly committed to the right-to-repair movement, stop abusing Tesla salvage title owners, and provide everything independent businesses, owners, and everyone else need to do their own repairs. Anyone can go to the parts counter at other manufacturers’ dealerships and purchase a part for a vehicle without asking questions, and that’s an industry standard that Tesla should adopt.
I understand why Tesla wants to take a modular approach to vehicle repair, and it can continue to do so. Any service center would delve into things like battery packs, drive units, and complex internal assemblies, would add a lot of cost and complexity at the service center level, and it makes a lot of sense to avoid that.
In order to prevent the repair costs from increasing at the expense of completely new assemblies, Tesla can take another page out of the “old” car playbook: refurbished and reconditioned parts.
For example, if someone comes into the house with a damaged battery, Tesla could order a reconditioned battery instead of asking the customer to buy a new one. Then send the damaged package to another location where it can perform minor internal repairs that are ready for the next customer who needs the package. Instead of paying $ 16,000 for a new package, a customer could pay only a fraction of that for a remanufactured assembly, especially considering they’re putting all of the rest of their package back into remanufacturing.
Refurbishment can be done at the factory, in a dedicated facility, or at an outside refurbishment company that is already doing this type of work and could even be a little profitable for whoever does it.
If Tesla can do all of this, or even most of it, it would make a huge difference to its customers. Damn it, I could even buy one!
Featured Image: Tesla Skateboard Chassis, Including Motor. Photo by Kyle Field / CleanTechnica.
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