Life With Tesla Model S: Trying Out The Service Program


2013 Tesla Model S in Queens, NY, service center, awaiting delivery to buyer David Noland, Feb 2013

2013 Tesla Model S in Queens, NY, service center, awaiting delivery to buyer David Noland, Feb 2013

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Tesla's announcement last month of its new service program sounded almost too good to be true.

If anything went wrong with my 2013 Tesla Model S, promised CEO Elon Musk, instead of schlepping to the nearest service center, I would simply await the arrival in my driveway of the Tesla service tech.

He would be driving a low-mileage, top-of-the-line 85-kWh Model S Performance loaner car.

We would trade cars. And he would whisk mine back to the shop, leaving me to drive the fanciest model of Tesla until my lesser 60-kWh car was fixed and returned to me.

It almost made me wish something would go wrong with my car.

Well, last week, it did.

Two things, actually.

The seat-belt buckle for the left-rear seat wasn't clicking into place properly, making the belt unusable.

And the button on the charge cord was intermittently failing to remotely open the charge port.

At first, the button failed only occasionally. But it had become increasingly balky, and by now  was failing most of the time.

That meant I had to clamber into the driver's seat and open the charge port via the touch screen.  Not a huge deal, but annoying nevertheless.

So I called the Tesla service center in White Plains, New York--about 40 miles away from my home in the Hudson Valley--to set up an appointment. I was given a slot for the following week.

Unfortunately, though, they only had one loaner car, and it was already scheduled to be in use during the time I had scheduled.

I would have to bring my car in and wait for it.

Sigh.

As I pulled up to the service center at the end of the 45-minute drive, my visions of a sprawling Lexus-style service palace quickly abated.

2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan on delivery day, with owner David Noland

2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan on delivery day, with owner David Noland

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Tesla's White Plains service center, just off Interstate 287, is a small, drab, nondescript building in a low-rent industrial area.  It has no sign or Tesla logo; I found the building only after noticing a whole bunch of Model Ses parked outside.

The service bay at least looked Tesla-worthy: Like the factory in Fremont, California, it was spotlessly clean with white-painted floors.

I handed over my keys and settled into the waiting room.

Though small and sparsely furnished, the waiting room at least featured an upscale Keurig coffee maker. And instead of People magazines, it offered The New Yorker, Food & Wine, and Barron's.

(After its recent bearish article about Tesla's long-term growth outlook, I wonder if Musk will ban Barron's from all service-center waiting rooms.)

And, thank goodness, there was no television set blaring news or talk shows.

After about an hour, the maintenance tech came into talk about my car.  The seat-belt problem was easy: The receptacle had simply slipped too far down below the seat cushion, preventing the tang from being pushed into it far enough to click in properly. He just pulled the receptacle up a bit, above the cushion.

2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan on delivery day, with owner David Noland

2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan on delivery day, with owner David Noland

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Duh. Should have figured that one out myself.

As for the charge-cord button, it had of course worked flawlessly during numerous charge-door test openings. He had lubed the charge door, but said there was nothing else to be done.

For perhaps 20 minutes we chatted about the upcoming software update 4.5, the status of the sleep mode, the ideal charge level for battery longevity, and the various other matters that Tesla fans talk about.

There was no bill, of course; everything was covered by the warranty. I drove away quite satisfied with the experience.

Okay, maybe Tesla's rosy promise of Model S Performance loaners for all was too good to be true--at least until its inventory of loaner cars grows substantially.

But I found a service technician I could actually talk to, decent coffee, and no mind-numbing TV in the waiting room. 

I'll take it.

David Noland is a Tesla Model S owner and freelance writer who lives north of New York City.

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