Life With Tesla Model S: Service Centers Get Crowded, Cost More


Onsite service by Tesla Motor technicians on 2013 Tesla Model S, upstate NY [photo: David Noland]

Onsite service by Tesla Motor technicians on 2013 Tesla Model S, upstate NY [photo: David Noland]

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One of the coolest things about owning a Tesla Model S for almost three years now has been the service.

When first revealed back in the spring of 2013—a few months after I had taken delivery of my car—the Tesla service model sounded almost too good to be true.

If a problem occurred, CEO Elon Musk announced, a Tesla rep would pick up the car, drop off a P85 loaner, and then return the car to my driveway when it was fixed.

At the time, I wrote, “It almost made me wish something would go wrong with my car.”

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It was no empty promise, either. On two or three occasions I’ve happily partaken of the pickup-and-dropoff service, impressing anew all my friends with the loaner P85’s acceleration. 

A Tesla tech from the New York City area once recounted to me how he had driven nine hours in a snowstorm, towing a loaner on a trailer, to pick up a disabled Model S in Buffalo, New York.

Tesla's Mobile Service Ranger vehicle

Tesla's Mobile Service Ranger vehicle

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Then 400 miles back to the service center, and, a few days later, another 800-mile round-trip to deliver the car back to its owner. 

Amazing.

On a couple of occasions, however, harsh reality intruded into my Tesla service experience. No loaners were available, and I had to drive my car to the service center and wait, just like the plebeian masses in their Chevies and Hondas. 

But I didn’t really mind; the techs were always happy to talk about my car’s issues and answer my endless inquiries about all things Tesla.

Service Nirvana

My best service experience—a story I often trot out to anyone who will listen—still seems too good to be true.

RELATED: Life With Tesla Model S: Trying Out The Service Program (Jun 2013)

The morning before Thanksgiving 2013, I was sitting at my kitchen table sipping tea and reading The New York Times when the phone rang.

It was the scheduler at my local Tesla service center. "We just got an e-mail from Tesla engineering in California," she said. "It seems there's a problem with your 12-volt battery.  Would it be okay if we sent someone out to your house  this morning to replace it?”

I was completely unaware of any problem with my 12-volt battery. (To be perfectly honest, I wasn't totally sure my car even had a 12-volt battery.)  But apparently Tesla's remote monitoring system had detected some sort of anomaly in the electrical readings from my car.

Onsite service by Tesla Motor technicians on 2013 Tesla Model S, upstate NY [photo: David Noland]

Onsite service by Tesla Motor technicians on 2013 Tesla Model S, upstate NY [photo: David Noland]

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Two hours later, a couple of Tesla Ranger technicians showed up at my house, and replaced the battery with an upgraded model.

A problem that I didn't know I had was fixed almost before I knew it, with zero effort or inconvenience on my part. 

“Amazing,” I wrote at the time. “If this is the future of automotive service, count me in.”

CHECK OUT: Life With Tesla Model S: Should I Buy The Extended Warranty?

Other Tesla owners apparently agreed with me; according to a 2014 Consumer Reports survey, the Model S received a rating of 99 out of 100 for service. 

Too many cars?

My service-Nirvana experience happened when there were roughly 25,000 Model S cars on the road. Now there are roughly 110,000. 

Tesla Model S at Supercharger site in Ventura, CA, with just one slot open [photo: David Noland]

Tesla Model S at Supercharger site in Ventura, CA, with just one slot open [photo: David Noland]

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I have no data about the nationwide growth of Tesla service centers over the last two years. (There are currently 69 U.S. centers listed on the Tesla website.)

However, I can say that the number of service centers within reasonable distance of my home in New York’s Hudson Valley has doubled in that time, from one to two. 

Do the math: Assuming a similar distribution of Model S population growth, each service center in my area is now responsible, on average, for more than twice as many cars as it used to be.

And I’ve noticed the difference.


 
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