Tesla's transformation of automobile service stumbles in Massachussetts
Tesla Motors is a disruptor, a company that is disrupting the "normal" pattern of automobile manufacturers and car dealerships. Tesla does pretty much everything differently from all the other manufacturers, it sells cars directly, it's showrooms are really education centers, and service is handled through regional service centers rather than the back half of the dealership building. In a blog post yesterday, Tesla's Joost de Vries explained how Tesla is "transforming automobile service" but the Tesla Way is not being met with open arms in all quarters.
De Vries started by explaining that the Tesla Model S was designed from the ground up, re-imagining what a car should be. One aspect of this was to redesign the process of servicing an automobile. He wrote: "Now that Model S is on the road, we are bringing 21st century service to our customers as well. First, forget everything you know about service at a traditional dealership. This is different. We specifically designed Tesla Service around the advantages and opportunities made possible by Model S."
First, because Tesla knows where the Model S registrations are located the company can locate regional service centers based on the density of Model S deliveries. By March 1, 2013, over 90% of Tesla Model S owners will be within 100 miles of a regional service center.
The normal pattern is that each car dealership has a service shop in the rear of the building, and there are an extensive array of 3rd party service businesses. Tesla does away with this in two ways. First, are the regional service centers, and second are mobile technicians called "Tesla Rangers" who can come directly to the home or office and perform many kinds of services on the spot.
Second, the Tesla Model S is designed as a low-maintenance vehicle. Some of this is inherent to electric vehicles, as these cars simply have fewer moving parts and less opportunity for failures. No spark plugs, timing belts or oil filters to replace, no smog checks, and the only oil to change is in the transmission and should last for 12 years. There is an annual inspection during which the technician will do a complete inspection and adjustment of anything which needs adjusting, or replacing consumable parts like brake pads.
Third, the Tesla Model S is constantly running diagnostics, sending information to Tesla's central computers. From there the service department can send notifications about issues.
Fourth, the Tesla Model S software is designed to update itself remotely via the car's built-in Internet connection. This can be used to fix bugs in the software, or even to add new features to the Model S.
This business model is different from business-as-usual as it is practiced in the car business. In business-as-usual parts and service are a big part of the profit structure of the whole automobile industry.