Much has been made of the battle between Tesla’s direct sales model and the franchise dealer network used by the “legacy” automakers. On the one side are typically well-meaning people who want to see EVs succeed for a variety of reasons, and on the other are typically well-meaning people who genuinely believe that franchise dealers and independent repair shops are better for the consumer than direct sales. Somewhere in the middle of all that is the question of monopoly power and what has come to be known as “the right to repair,” and it’s here that we find the latest reason to push back against direct sales: Tesla quoted some poor guy $16,000 for a $700 repair.
The story begins with a Tesla Model 3 lessee who hit some road debris that cracked a coolant nipple located on the battery pack. The real trouble, though, began after being towed to a Tesla service center and having the car inspected. “The driver was told that he would need a completely new pack since the cracked part was molded into the existing one’s outer shell,” writes Rob Stumpf, who covered the story for The Drive. “And, because a Model 3’s pack isn’t serviceable at a standard Tesla service center, it can only be swapped out for another unit rather than be repaired.”
Tesla quoted the Model 3 driver a whopping $16,000 for the new battery pack. Worse, the driver’s car insurance didn’t cover comprehensive claims for road debris — which means that he was very much on the hook for the Taiga Orca–sized repair bill. Luckily, the driver was able to find an alternative solution when he found Rich Benoit and the guys at Electrified Garage, who managed to get the Model 3 back on the road with a threaded brass nipple and a bill for just $700 — and most of that was diagnostics and labor!
The Damage to the Tesla
That’s it. That little crack on a piece that’s molded into the coolant tank that won’t ever see more than 5 psi and you get a pretty convincing argument against a direct sales model. If something like this had happened at a Nissan dealer, for example, there might have been two or three other Nissan dealers who could have given competing quotes. Maybe — just spitballin’ here — maybe just knowing the customer had an alternative would have motivated that first dealer to work a little harder to find a workable solution that didn’t cost $16,000. Even more likely, since the store gets paid by the OEM for warranty work, the dealer might have gone to bat for its customer and fought the manufacturer to cover the costs of the repair under warranty or “goodwill.”
Tesla? It had no such motivation to help the customer, because where else was he going to go? Who else is qualified to work on that Model 3?
That’s my take, anyway, but I invite you to watch the video yourself (below) and share your take. I know Elon Musk has an army of fans on here, so I’ll be looking forward to reading about how you think a guy with more money than Smaug — a fictional dragon hoarding a literal mountain of gold — is surely looking out for your best interests in the comments section at the bottom of the page. Flame on!