Rich Benoit and Chris Salvo, founders of the Electric Garage
Without dealerships, service has been a regular challenge for Tesla and its owners.
Reports are so rampant about months-long wait times for Tesla service that CEO Elon Musk has acknowledged that addressing service complaints is his No. 1 priority for 2019, especially after the company's sales exploded as Model 3 production ramped up.
Now the company is about to get some "coopetition" for that business from a famous YouTuber, Rich Benoit of the YouTube channel Rich Rebuilds.
Benoit, an electrical engineer by day, gained YouTube fame, at least in the Tesla world, after he bought a Model S flooded in salt water and rebuilt it using parts from another, wrecked Tesla Model S. (He bought the flooded Model S, which he calls Dolores, for $14,000 from a salvage auction.)
After gaining an audience of thousands impressed by his perseverance and skills rebuilding the car, other Tesla owners, especially in New England, where Teslas and Tesla stores are thinner on the ground than many parts of the country started calling Benoit to fix problems with their cars.
Between that demand and the stories of wait lists at Tesla service centers he decided to open his own Tesla repair business in his hometown of Seabrook, New Hampshire, called the Electrified Garage. He teamed up with his friend Chris Salvo, a former parts manager at a Tesla service center and founder of EV Tuning, an online Tesla parts store that he started after leaving Tesla.
It's difficult to explain what a breakthrough it was for a novice home mechanic to rebuild a salvaged Tesla that needed just about all its electronics (other than its main computer) and high-voltage systems replaced.
Since Tesla won't sell just anyone replacement parts for a salvage Tesla, the pair relies on salvage parts they buy from a Tesla swap group that Benoit started on Facebook, as well as Salvo's connections to buy new parts.
Some things Tesla won't do, and others are not convenient or too expensive for some owners. "We just said to each other, let's help people out as much as we can," Benoit says. They will also work on other electric cars.
For now, the pair is working out of a two-car garage, but they have begun construction on an actual shop next to a home in Seabrook. With both men holding down full-time jobs, the shop is open on Saturdays and has been booked for a year. "It's been a struggle," Benoit says.
The company lists a number of basic services on its website, including brakes, suspension, door handle repairs, wheel and tire work, air conditioning and electrical repairs, and aftermarket installations, but says they will also perform custom services on request.
One of their early customers under the new business, Daniel Costin, came to them to repair a failed ultrasonic sensor and door handle in his Model S. He calls the shop an "Oasis of Tesla-tude" in Tesla-sparse New England.
In a YouTube video announcing the business (what else?), Benoit says they hope to build the business into a franchise to repair Teslas. "Our goal was to say how can we build something to help this company, and that's all we're trying to do," he says.
The pair say they haven't received any reaction to their plan from Tesla, at least not so far.