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Turns Out Tesla Owners Technically Do Not Own Their Cars

Here’s the latest from a popular mechanic and the most famous engineer of computing history that shows why Tesla owners technically do not really own their cars…but should.

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When Havership is not Ownership---(Ok, ok…I know “havership” is not a real word, but it seems appropriate in this case).

Previously we’ve reported on how that owning a Tesla is not all it’s all cracked up to be when…well…something cracks on a Tesla. Now this not to say that Tesla does not make a fine vehicle---they do and it’s an astounding success in what has been accomplished. There’s no denying that.

However, there is a bigger issue here than having (note the emphasis on “having”) the latest model of car with the latest tech that has previous car owners (again, note the emphasis on “owners”) signing up for models of Tesla with no clear idea when---and in some cases IF---their automotive dream will arrive.

In other words, there is a distinction between truly owning something as opposed to simply having something.

Case in point: I have been following Tesla social media groups about the same length of time as I have been following a social media group about a popular radio kit group called QRP-Labs. What I’ve noticed is that the two groups which I believe are primarily generationally disparate, actually share a lot in common:

• Both groups are extraordinarily committed to their interest.
• Both groups are tech-related.
• Both groups are manic when it comes to the latest model/kit release.
• Both groups are willing to wait years for a promised product with no guarantees.
• Both groups share exuberant posts of happiness when their kit/model finally arrives.

Just yesterday, I observed the release of a digital transceiver kit for the QRP-Labs interest group of which only 400 kits were available. In less than 10 minutes, all kits were sold online, and there is very likely a long waiting list for the next production batch---presumably due to a chip shortage that may necessitate a redesign of the kit for a replacement chip. Sound familiar?

My point to all of this is that where the two groups depart significantly is that the radio kit group OWNS the product they paid for with respect to that they can modify, improve, and repair the kit as they see fit. And, are actually encouraged to do so, by its creator.

Tesla "owners" on the other hand, really cannot do any of the above without serious repercussions. Worst of all---when it comes to repair when something breaks on their Tesla.

Tesla Service Centers are notorious for overly expensive “system replacement” and not “actual repairs.” Going to a non-Tesla garage is risky because Tesla reputedly will not share software-related fixes with mechanics. Furthermore, there is also the risk that if a Tesla owner seeks help elsewhere, that Tesla may disable access to its Supercharging network to presumably legally protect Tesla if they find or detect any unsupported repairs.

What’s The Fuss?

What the fuss about all of this is that it has to do with a Right to Repair movement that makes some pretty good arguments why people who buy cars today should be concerned about the move by automakers like Tesla to actively prevent car buyers from truly owning their vehicles.

The least of which, is that it could lead to the eventuality of where we will no longer be able to enjoy our cars in the near future like we enjoy them today.

Don’t think it can happen? Then listen to this informative video as Eric the Car Guy discusses what the Right to Repair means to car owners. And, if a car mechanic’s point of view does not convince you, then listen in on what Steve Wozniak has to say as he speaks in defense of the Right to Repair and how it shaped a history...that helped make Tesla possible today.

Right to Repair

Steve Wozniak Speaks on Right to Repair

And finally…

We would like to hear from you---Do you agree or disagree that personal Tesla ownership really does not exist? What are your views on the Right to Repair? Does Musk have the right to control what you do with your Tesla? Please respond in the comments section below, we would like to know what you think about the topic.

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Timothy Boyer is an automotive reporter based in Cincinnati. Experienced with early car restorations, he regularly restores older vehicles with engine modifications for improved performance. Follow Tim on Twitter at @TimBoyerWrites for daily news and topics related to ICE and EV cars and trucks.

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Rick Beasley (not verified)    October 12, 2021 - 2:54PM

Okay, so I’m kind of a wrencher, I like to fix whatever I can within my wheel house. Something’s I can’t,and I’m okay with that. But, I like, well I demand the right to choose what I fix, or have fixed, and I think we all deserve to have someone who has our interests in mind fix our cars. I’ve yet to EVER, and I’m 70 now, ever have a dealer look out for my interest. They have to squeeze every last cent out of your pocket, checkbook, savings account, 401k and inheritance it seems.

I’ve have many new cars, I paid for them, own them and don’t want to be controlled by their manufacturer to continue to pay additional exhorbanent prices for parts and repairs.
We deserve the right to fix or repair our vehicles as WE choose, where we feel confidence in the mechanic.

Charles Holmes Jr. (not verified)    October 12, 2021 - 6:14PM

As a Tech support professional I believe the Right To Repair is the right way to address this trend by manufacters to lock me out the Repair business. End User Agreements drive crazy with legalise no one without Law deree can understand. Appl phones come to mind. I love the Mack Mini Apple manufactures, but its closed box with no instructions. This has to stop! I'm currently a Help Desk Trch with one of the largest brokerage houses in our country where they are hamstrung by this effort by the manufacturers to control the of almost anything electronic or mechanical. This is dangerous. That's my opinion full stop!

Timothy Boyer    October 12, 2021 - 8:32PM

In reply to by Charles Holmes Jr. (not verified)

I hear you, plus the added danger to this is that it is encouraging a generation that has no idea how to even begin when it comes to repairing even the simplest of devices or household electronics. It's a loss of natural critical thinking skills toward problem solving. We are such a "plug and play then throw away" society. Oh well.

Rick Scaggs (not verified)    October 12, 2021 - 8:58PM

In reply to by Charles Holmes Jr. (not verified)

JD has gamed the system to the point you have to put it on the truck chain it down anytime. It has a hickup and run it to the shop. Wash, rinse, repeat. It is so bad that the state of Illinois now buys other tractors than jD. I am shopping for a new lawn tractor and it will not J.D. the problem if others adopt this B.S. is this
Without any alternatives no value is possible. Some have aquired Pirate software but this pose a new set of problem.

Hal Hackney (not verified)    October 13, 2021 - 12:21AM

Tesla learned from Apple. Tesla “owners” need to use the same lawyers who finally forced Apple to allow authorized dealers to repair Apple products. Auto mfgs in general have made autos more difficult to repair to increase their bottom line. Fortunately, we have some really smart mechanics who stay abreast of advanced things automotive and repair our vehicles at reasonable prices. As another poster said, auto dealers have never had our best interests at heart. Neither does Tesla or Apple.

Timothy Boyer    October 13, 2021 - 10:05AM

In reply to by Hal Hackney (not verified)

That and planned obsolescence. I'm also waiting for the day when we will see vehicles that have a special self destruct chip either for specific parts or the entire vehicle to ensure a throw-away society. Remember when you used to be able to shake a printer cartridge to get the last bit of over-priced toner? I heard somewhere that they now come with chips that count pages and then refuse to print after a particular count. Oh well. Thanks for the input!

bob a (not verified)    October 13, 2021 - 1:57PM

Freakin' complicated stuff.

Apple never released the code for MacDraw. That was the keystone for Macintosh I/O functionality. You couldn't even really take apart a Macintosh, or add hardware. Woz talks about the Apple I and II, and those are so basic, it was no big deal. I'd like to hear him talk about Mac and right of repair.

With a car - especially one that could drive autonomously, and that does have strong safety features integrated across many of it systems - its more like the Macintosh (and that on steroids). Can't just have people messing with cameras and wiring and computers. You CAN get parts if you are a Tesla certified repair shop. So it is not totally manufacturer repair. But with all the bad press with any accident - even when people are INTENTIONALLY circumventing safety systems - it is understandable that they want to control access.

And there are aftermarket parts. Looking at AutoZone, they have rotors, bearings, air springs... Funny, though, when I looked up the car, it is identified as having a 15 cylinder engine!

dw (not verified)    October 13, 2021 - 2:21PM

does any not know that if you buy almost any car (or other product) that companies can void your warranty, if it not done by an approved repairer? they all have good reason to do so. what i dont see the reason for is if the product is out of warranty why any manufacturer cares who repairs it? at that point its on the repair shop, and owner. and then there is the black box in vehicles, that is required, but which the vehicle owner doesnt owner, or have rights to, but paid for, and you cant disconnect it, without possibly disabling the vehicle

Phil (not verified)    October 14, 2021 - 11:21AM

If Henry Ford had tried this we would still be using horses to pull our carriages. Not a bad idea come to think of it. Folks of that generation would have told Ford NO in no uncertain terms.

Doug Kramer (not verified)    October 31, 2021 - 2:05AM

So how is this issue different than that of IBM and Apple Computers in the 1980s ? Both required brand-specific parts / replacement parts as opposed to the customer and budget-friendly “PC clones.”
For the Tesla, few parts need to regularly need to be replaced. Is it true that Tesla tires have insulation to reduce road noise. This may, I don’t know, make a difference since a non-ICE vehicle Already makes less noise for the passengers. Some may like a quieter commute: e.g. those with hearing issues (tinnitus, hard-of-hearing), etc.

Gio (not verified)    January 7, 2022 - 1:26AM

How about if these Tesla owners or the ones that are financially well off- should create a video burning a brand new Tesla (with the purpose that it go Viral) and indicate that they are doing it to show Tesla that they want the RIGHT TO REPAIR. If it does goes viral and the Media picks up the video , Musk May be feel obligated to address or change his policies.

Gary F (not verified)    May 14, 2023 - 11:31PM

I think right to repair is the right way to go.

I purchased a set of Tesla wheel locks from Tesla. Price was reasonable.

At first tire rotation when all the lug nuts have to come off the car mind you, I asked them to install the locking lug nuts. That would be simply installing them instead of the non-locking nuts while they were doing the service.

They added a 119.25 charge to my estimate to install the locking lug nuts!!! I immediately cancelled that request and filed a complaint with the CA Bureau of Automotive Repair. My next step when I have a minute is the California Attornetly General’s office. Then I intend to notify the motor vehicle bureaus in the states where they are applying to sell motor vehicles directly.

Any franchise dealer would simply put the locking log nuts on at no charge during a tire rotation procedure.

If I had bought the locks and asked for a special service to install them I of course would expect to pay for it but a 119 charge when the lug nuts are already being removed? Really?

Friend of mine owns a tire store. He will mount them for me at no cost.