Waits for Tesla service get longer as more electric cars are sold


Map of Tesla service center locations in the U.S., December 2016

Map of Tesla service center locations in the U.S., December 2016

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My 2013 Tesla Model S is now approaching 75,000 miles on the odometer.

That happens to be the mileage benchmark for my next scheduled Tesla service. So I called my local Tesla service center, in Paramus, New Jersey, to set up the appointment.

No problem, the service rep said. The first available slot is...a month from now. Whoa.

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Good thing I’d called well in advance of my annual cross-country drive to our winter getaway in California, scheduled five weeks later.

If I’d called with my usual lead time of a week or two, I’d have been out of luck.

Long Waits

My story is not unusual.  As the number of Teslas on the road—both the Model S and the now ramped-up Model X—grows rapidly, the number of Tesla service centers is not keeping pace.

The result is long wait times for service in many parts of the country.

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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In California, wait times of 30-45 days are not unusual, with San Francisco and San Diego in particular as hot spots where owners wait weeks for regular maintenance appointments.

And on the Tesla Motor Club forum this past February, a distraught Model S owner in Norway reported a wait time of eight months for his car. He had described the service situation in that country several months earlier as a “meltdown.”

To be fair, my Paramus rep assured me that any problem that disabled the car, or was safety-related, would be scheduled sooner.

And not all service centers are backed up for regular service. One Model S owner from Raleigh, N.C. reports that he was recently told to bring his car in “any time you want.”

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But that’s a rare exception. It’s clear that, for the most part, the good old days of quick, on-demand Tesla service are long gone.

(Oh, how fondly I remember them. Including that day in 2013 when the now-defunct service center in White Plains, New York, called me at 9 am to inform me that my 12-volt battery needed replacement—it had been diagnosed remotely— and then sent two mechanics to my house. They had the new battery in by noon.)

Numbers

It’s not hard to see why service wait times are growing: too many cars, not enough service centers.

An enterprising Model S owner on the TMC Forum, Troy, has assembled statistics that show how the problem has developed over the past three years.

Tesla Model 3 spotted at service center

Tesla Model 3 spotted at service center

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According to Troy, in the fourth quarter of 2013—nine months after I took delivery of my car—there were about 21,000 Teslas on U.S. roads and 43 U.S. service centers to take care of them. That’s a ratio of 488 cars per service center.

Since then, the Tesla fleet has swelled, while the number of service centers has—well, not so much.

By the end of the September 2016, the numbers were 95,000 cars and 61 service centers. That’s a ratio of 1,552 cars per service center—more than triple the service load of three years ago.

According to Troy’s numbers, since early 2013, the U.S. Tesla fleet has grown by 450 percent, while the number of service centers has increased by 42 percent. 

California’s numbers are even worse:  as of Q3 2016,  there were 39,000 cars and 19 service centers. That’s a ratio of more than 2,000 cars per service center.

Or consider just the city of San Diego: 4,000 cars, one service center.


 
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