It’s sweet when you buy a car and it immediately needs service — awesome experience. Seemingly out of pure luck, that’s what happened with the first Tesla Model S we bought for our new Tesla Shuttle service. Days after picking the Model S up from Germany (used, and not through Tesla), “Acceleration Reduced” appeared on the small screen behind the steering wheel, and underneath that in a bit smaller text, “Contact Tesla Service When Convenient.”
One of Tesla Shuttle’s other cofounders, the one who had the car at the time (Jacek), called the regional Tesla Service Center. Unfortunately, this was late on a Saturday, so it was closed for the weekend and wouldn’t open again till Monday morning. Naturally, the gap in open hours helped us to stress a little bit more than we’d like, but I think it’s unreasonable to expect 24/7 service centers at such a young stage of Tesla’s growth and development, and I think few such places are open on Sundays in this region anyway.
The nice thing was that my colleague could call Tesla’s global support center for some quicker help. The person there was able to diagnose the problem remotely and tell Jacek that it was a fuse connected to the battery that needed replaced*. Unfortunately, the problem required a physical fix, so we had to arrange a time to bring the car in for service … and the regional service center is a few hours away.
We had a conference planned in the city where the service center is located, Berlin, and it was fairly easy to time the service center visit with the conference. Additionally, the service center had a pretty cool solution for us — it would swap out our battery with a good one and get our car back to us quickly so that we didn’t have to be separated from it for long. It would then take them a couple of weeks to repair our battery, and then we’d have to come back to have the battery swapped again (a process that apparently takes about an hour and a half). Clearly, it wasn’t ideal that we would have to drive back to the service center again, but hey, that’s life.
On the plus side, we had a customer trip to Berlin again the week that the battery was ready, so it was fairly painless to come back in. However, due to a lot of regional demand for service (relative to the company’s service capacity), we had a tight window in which we could bring the car in on the day we were there, and the timing was a little tighter than ideal (extra costs/concessions had to be made on our end). But it’s cool that the day matched up and we were actually able to get it done, and let’s be frank — if Tesla had over-expanded its service centers and was eating cash unnecessarily as a result, that would be bad for Tesla and potentially bad for Tesla customers.
Furthermore, on both days we came into the service center, we were later than planned/scheduled. They worked around that and saved us a lot of potential inconvenience. We were back on the road quickly and basically as planned.
Two surprising and uncool things popped up as well, however. These concerned our transport options while our car was in service. Normally, Tesla is supposed to give you a loaner Tesla. At the least, they are supposed to give you a non-Tesla car to use. In our case, there was no car available of any type. Instead, Tesla called a taxi for me to get to where I was going for the rest of the day and night (we weren’t getting our car back till the next day). After I was in the taxi for a few minutes, it crossed my mind to ask whether Tesla was covering the trip. I simply assumed Tesla was covering it since we didn’t get a loaner car for the day, but it turned out that wasn’t the case. Of course, that also meant we had to get back to the service center (which is on the edge of a large city) via taxi as well. €50–100 for a taxi or two isn’t the end of the world, but it’s very different from Tesla’s stated policy as I understand it, and I didn’t feel cool with that switcheroo. Again, that’s not cool, and I imagine plenty of less forgiving customers could get a bit red in the face over such a discovery.
Overall, our Tesla service experience was pretty good when you consider how young this company is, how limited its sales have been (particularly in our region), and how hard it must be to ramp up service for a completely different car from a unique company new to the auto market. Frankly, I couldn’t hope for much more from Tesla at this stage of its rapid development. I’m stoked about Tesla’s recent announcement about several improvements to service (including a lot more Tesla loaner cars), and I hope if we have service needs again that I’ll see some of these in action. Otherwise, I’d like to see the service (particularly loaner car) experience match up slightly better with the hype.
The overview from this one experience is that it was really quite painless, the service center seemed pretty flexible given the constraints, and nearly every step of the process was as pleasant and easy as I had expected based on all I’d read before. In fact, how promptly Tesla was able to fix the problem and get us our car back in fully functional order surprised me since I know there is a lot of demand being put on Tesla’s limited service network at this point in time. We were able to bring the car in immediately, get it back after a few hours, and get our battery back in the car within a couple of weeks — all at no cost to us (aside from the taxi and the time cost of getting to and from the service center).
*Assuming I received accurate information and understood the issue correctly.
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