Tesla Has an Achilles Heel
Jeremy Johnson's picture

Tesla Has an Achilles Heel

Tesla has an Achilles Heel. Like the ancient warrior of old, Achilles, who was practically invincible, Tesla is a superior company in terms of technology, performance, and its product. But it could be brought down by something it may not see coming.
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What Is Tesla's Achilles Heel?

I love Tesla and am incredibly bullish on the company. But I am also a realist. And when I see a problem, even with a company I love, I'm going to tackle it head on and try to see it resolved. Let's see what the problem is here for Tesla.

Recently, there was an owner of a Tesla Model 3 who wanted to have a repair done and he went to a custom repair shop instead, because Tesla quoted him $16,000, which he could not afford.

Instead, the owner of the Tesla Model 3 got creative and went to an alternative source to have the repair done. This alternative source was 3 states away and required shipping his Tesla all the way there.

It seems like the repair ended up being somewhat straightforward. It required taking a plate off the bottom of the car and changing out the connection to the battery which connected to a coolant hose by using a new connector. The issue was that there was a crack in the battery connector. The technician took off the connector and did some custom work with additional pieces and put those back where the old connector was. All in all, it didn't take very long for the technician to do the repair and screw back on the bottom plate. Probably an hour or less.

I do not understand why someone at Tesla would say to replace the entire battery pack when all that was needed was to fix the connector on the battery with just a bit of reworking. My guess is that Tesla didn't have parts to replace it, or the Tesla technician was just stumped or lazy, but I'm not really sure. Here is the video, of the repair (skip to 13 minutes, 50 seconds):

Why This Is a Problem For Tesla?

The fact that the owner of the Tesla Model 3 had to take such drastic extra action in order to have this repair done is a problem. Now, maybe it's a really bizarre edge case that Tesla just couldn't handle, but I don't think so. The repair was to take off the bottom plate and fix the connector that had a puncture hole in it. This wasn't a rocket science type of repair, but it did require some critical thinking and effort from the person who repaired it.

Related News: The Tesla Model 2 will be an even more affordable Tesla.

I now bring to you the Achilles Heel of Tesla: Customer Service and Car Repairs

What happens when there is an issue with the car battery, one of the hoses, or some kind of crack that happens that causes the car to not function but isn't straightforward to repair? Tesla spends quite a bit of time making amazingly performing cars, but doesn't seem to be spending time on supporting those vehicles in the way they need to be. As Tesla grows its fleet of vehicles, it will need to maintain proper support.

Tesla does offer mobile service. This is a nice and convenient way to have a check up done and minor repairs done. I believe they even rotate tires. But I've heard enough complaints for issues that a customer had to find a 3rd party for instead of Tesla, that I have a pause for concern.

Presently, there are 215 upvotes and 165 comments for the post on Reddit pertaining to this very issue. That tells me that there is a segment of users who are unhappy with the service they are getting from Tesla.

Here's my recommendations for Tesla to improve its customer service:

  • Find more qualified and skilled workers who can solve problems like this repair. It wasn't rocket science to fix.
  • Partner with service centers for Tesla repair. I know this is difficult because electric vehicles are still not in heavy adoption. But partnering with Jiffy Lube and having them modernize, or other repair centers may help.
  • Have more empathy and understanding in situations where someone's Tesla isn't working. This guy should not have been quoted $16,000. That's insulting and unreasonable.
  • Find small niche groups of people to bring together. I know there are small groups that focus on Tesla repair as a niche business because there just isn't enough service available.

All in all, I think service and repair of vehicles is not a glamorous thing to focus on. It's not going to add to the bottom line significantly, but it will make happier customers and take away Tesla's Achilles Heel, which I think is very important.

What do you think about this unique repair issue ? Is service Tesla's Achilles Heel? Is this something Tesla can do better at? What can Tesla do better to serve its customers?

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Jeremy Johnson is a Tesla investor and supporter. He first invested in Tesla in 2017 after years of following Elon Musk and admiring his work ethic and intelligence. Since then, he's become a Tesla bull, covering anything about Tesla he can find, while also dabbling in other electric vehicle companies. Jeremy covers Tesla developments at Torque News. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram to stay in touch and follow his Tesla news coverage on Torque News.


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Comments

My question is whether EVs overall are becoming part of our throwaway society? in other words, make them so good (meaning completely maintenance free) that they last longer than the average person's interest, while at the same time make them inaccessible for anyone to repair...or even want to attempt to repair. I'm not sure what to make of this and what it may mean to our future. But I do have a hard time believing recycling is in the endgame based on the historical problems we've had with making recycling really work..
Yes, I would agree with this. Because maintenance is probably less needed on them, there will be less qualified people to repair them... It's an interesting problem.
About the nipple repair on the low pressure cooling system liquid pathway (in lieu of a huge $16000 repair bill), I am a concerned that the diameter of the repaired nipple has been reduced! There was no enlargement of the diameters prior to introducing the bushing which means that the end result is a restriction of the flow from the original design, & when it comes to battery cooling, you are literally playing with fire!
About the nipple repair on the low pressure cooling system liquid pathway (in lieu of a huge $16000 repair bill), I am a concerned that the diameter of the repaired nipple has been reduced! There was no enlargement of the diameters prior to introducing the bushing which means that the end result is a restriction of the flow from the original design, & when it comes to battery cooling, you are literally playing with fire!
Calling Jiffy Lube a "repair center" killed this whole article for me. These are the people who got sued multiple times because they used scare tactics to ensure customers would come back for oil changes more often than the vehicle manufacturer recommendations dictated, and they knowingly pushed profit-making replacement of perfectly serviceable ancillary equipment when customers were getting their oil changed.
By all accounts, the customer service side of Tesla has some room for improvement. Like a LOT. But it's a chicken & egg problem, very expensive to solve. When initial sales volume is limited, those costs are tough to eat. Now that the sales side is improving significantly, it's a virtual certainty that services will be addressed. Whether it's kept in-house is perhaps indicated by Tesla's willingness to discuss sharing their SuperCharger locations.
I think Jiffy Lube could be more modernized to handle electric vehicles - it will have to eventually or get cannibalized by EV's. The customer service side of Tesla needs some work for sure, but I think Tesla will figure that out as time goes on.
As much as this does highlight a repair issue with Tesla, it is totally common throughout the auto industry. There are whole YouTube channels devoted to people buying expensive cars from auto dismantlers that were totaled by the insurance company after the cost for the auto dealer was more than the value of the vehicle. One key point is that nearly all auto dealerships make most of their money from service work, and they will choose to replace any broken parts with new, expensive ones as a point of liability (and profit). The dealerships and large auto repair shops know that most all of the time the person's car insurance will be paying the $$$ bill, and again if it is too much, they just total the car. But Tesla doesn't have dealerships. They only have factory repair shops, and more recently authorized repair shops. Being EVs, Teslas need less maintenance and repair work compared to gas powered vehicles. But it has been their Achilles Heel that you cannot just take Tesla's to a skilled (unapproved) mechanic for repairs and have the car remain supported by Tesla, get software update, or be able to use the Supercharger network. As much as this is an issue that Tesla needs to rethink, it points to a much larger auto industry issue called "Right to Repair".
When my Chevy Driving friends used to say Forfeit stood for Fix Or Repair Daily, I’d get the last laugh when they had hard times working on their cars, because they weren’t designed to be fixed or repaired daily! Sadly that story is so last Century!