Tesla Steps Up Its Service Offerings As Model 3 Deliveries Continue To Ramp

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Tesla established itself as the leader in quality of service from its service centers prior to the Model 3 launch, but many people were concerned about Tesla’s ability to scale its service offerings up while maintaining the high levels of quality it had delivered to Model S and X buyers. More and more Model 3s are making it into the hands of eager customers, which invariably means more service calls for issues small and large … and even some small ones that come with large repair bills.

Tesla is diving in again with more improvements to its service offerings by taking its world-class Ranger service to the Tesla app. CEO Elon Musk shared on Twitter yesterday that the new energy company had been working on giving drivers the ability to request service from a smartphone with just a few taps.

This is an improvement over Tesla’s previous offerings, which all required a few calls to get things set up for a service visit. And it gives owners yet another tool to choose how they want to communicate with and be serviced by Tesla — options, people like options.

Elon also noted that a Tesla Ranger would respond to the request by coming to the user to take care of the car. So, not only can you request service from your phone, but you also don’t have to bring the car in or fill out paperwork!

Tesla is also looking to leverage drivers’ smartphones to troubleshoot issues. Elon tweeted about work the team is doing in an attempt to use the microphone on a cellphone to “pinpoint origin by acoustic signature & triangulation” to detect rattles and squeaks in its vehicles.

This might sound like James Bond tech, but so did bounding radar under the car in front of a Tesla to detect traffic issues farther ahead … until Tesla did just that. Tesla continues to push the envelope, and with a target of handling the vast majority of service issues with its fleet of Rangers that come to you to perform service, it’s clear that Tesla doesn’t want service to be an issue and is working hard to make that a reality.

Tesla has generally been great about smoothing over service appointments and making them as painless as possible. Though, there are bottlenecks in two key areas that Tesla just hasn’t mastered yet.

Body Work

Tesla’s approach to getting body work and accident repairs done on a Tesla is to farm it out to one of the body shops in its network. The issue to date is that there are only so many body shops certified to do the work, which leaves owners locked into a somewhat monopolistic network within which work tends to come at a premium.

Using a certified repair shop is proving to be important as one Tesla Motors Club reader found when he/she went with an unauthorized glass shop to replace the windshield on a Model S.

The install itself went swimmingly until one of the snap clips cut into an out-of-place wire that in turn fried the self-dimming rear view mirror and the two auto-dimming side mirrors. Check out the photos in the post linked above for some truly gasp-inducing reasons to stick with Tesla’s network of professionals. [Editor’s note: They also look like epic pieces of auto art. You really have to take a look.]

Having said that, this is just one of the growing pains of building an automotive company. As hundreds of thousands of Model 3s take to the streets over the next few years, aftermarket parts will follow, as will aftermarket shops capable of handling the nuances of Tesla’s ever-evolving vehicles. But until then, buyer beware … and take care to avoid accidents, body dings, and Thor at all costs.

Lengthy Repair Times

The internet is full of Tesla owners waiting weeks or even months for what seem like basic repairs to fenders, small dings, and the like. Our very own Zachary Shahan had his own encounter with Tesla Service that left him less than thrilled by a few key issues.

First off, the distance to his local service center is just over 4 hours, in Berlin, Germany. Looking at Tesla’s map of its service centers reveals that anything east of Germany is effectively the Tesla badlands, with no service centers for several thousand kilometers. [Editor’s note: We’ve since had to go there for other matters as well, which is never super convenient but is at least helped out by the fact that our shuttle service often drives to Berlin airport, which is close to the service center. –Zach]

That puts owners in a bind and is somewhat understandable as the company builds out infrastructure near its customers around the world. On the other hand, this is a known issue for anyone buying a Tesla in these areas and comes with the territory, at least until more service centers pop up (something Tesla is constantly working to make happen).

In addition to the long distance from home, the repair took several weeks to complete, but it was thankfully isolated to the battery pack. In an interesting turn of events, Tesla swapped out the battery pack for a loaner for the duration of the work, but this still made it an awkward and not very seamless service appointment since it required a return trip. Repair times of several weeks might be seen internally as a non-issue, but leaving any issue hanging for several weeks isn’t a great thing for customers … unless Tesla gives them a fully loaded Model X or Model S in the meantime.

Overall, there’s no doubt that Tesla has its work cut out for it, but looking at what it has accomplished with regards to service in the past, I’m hopeful for what it will do with Model 3. Growing pains are exactly that — painful results of fast growth — and Tesla is working through them one day and one customer at a time.

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Kyle Field

I'm a tech geek passionately in search of actionable ways to reduce the negative impact my life has on the planet, save money and reduce stress. Live intentionally, make conscious decisions, love more, act responsibly, play. The more you know, the less you need. As an activist investor, Kyle owns long term holdings in Tesla, Lightning eMotors, Arcimoto, and SolarEdge.

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