Condensation in the passenger Side taillight

Our (Brief) Tesla Ownership Experience So Far [Updated]

Since I’m going to say some critical things I want to start out by saying that we love our Tesla Model S. However, ownership has not been without issues. So, I thought I would share the good, the bad, and the ugly. Hopefully, this will help Tesla improve their customer ownership experience as well as assist potential buyers in making informed decisions.

Condensation in the passenger Side taillight
Condensation in the passenger-side taillight

Initial Ownership Experience

On April 23rd we took ownership of our Tesla Model S, Nick. Within an hour or so I noticed that the reverse light on the passenger side had condensation inside the light fixture. I made a quick trip back to the service center. Tesla was quick to place an order for the replacement part and schedule the service visit a few weeks out to give time for the part to arrive.

Unfortunately, I missed the service appointment. Somehow I just completely overlooked it. When I went to reschedule, I was informed that the service department was booked well into the future. The earliest appointment I could get was June 10th. [pullquote]People expect an ownership experience—a relationship—with a work of art that just happens to provide them with transportation…[/pullquote]I was told that because the service department was so busy, I should expect to leave the car perhaps one or two nights.

After hearing nothing all day yesterday, I called in the late afternoon to see when the car would be ready. They told me it was ready. They just had not called. This was rather annoying, because I called just before they were to close and was therefore unable to pick the car up yesterday.

I picked up the car today. Much to my shock, when I arrived home I noticed that the replacement backup light has the exact same issue. Either they replaced the wrong part, replaced the defective part with another defective part, replaced the part incorrectly, or failed to replace the part at all. I am not a happy camper.

Other Concerns

This is a list of other issues we asked the service center to address and their response:

  • The sound system makes a terrible intermittent zapping-like noise even when the volume is turned all the way down. [They couldn’t reproduce this and suggested I keep my phone away from the iPad–like control center. I hadn’t thought of this, but it could make sense.]
  • Anytime the car sees a Wi-Fi signal, it asks me if I want to set up Wi-Fi. This is rather annoying as I have set up all of the Wi-Fi networks we routinely use. [I can turn Wi-Fi completely off. However, this means the car would not receive automatic system updates. There is no feature such as “Ask to join new Wi-Fi networks?” that one can turn off.]
  • The front hood does not look properly closed. [They checked and adjusted it. However, it looks exactly the same to me. Now I’m just afraid to open it at all.]
  • The glass sunroof makes a rattling sound when open while traveling down the road at some speed. [I neglected to ask about this, and they did not volunteer any information about any of the repairs.]
  • The charging port door frequently (50%+ of the time) unlocks after I have closed it even though I hear the magnetic lock engage. It seems to wait until after I get into the car to unlock itself, and then I have to get back out to close it again. Totally annoying! The Tesla is not the easiest car I’ve ever gotten in or out of. [They couldn’t replicate this issue and suggest I “continue to monitor it.” I guess that means just keep getting in and out of the car to close the charging port a second time.]
  • We don’t know how to turn off the sound system. There is no off button anywhere. We only know how to turn the volume down to zero. [Apparently you don’t turn the sound system off. You just turn the volume to zero. This seems weird to me. Does the sound system continue to use electrical energy even when the volume is set to zero? For example: is the phone Bluetooth still actively engaged and streaming if you were playing music from the phone? (At least that has a pause button!) Is the internet radio service still streaming if you were listening to internet radio?]
  • 6-13-2014 UPDATE: California requires a front license plate. I couldn’t figure out how to install it.Apparently the car, which is made in CA, isn’t designed for a front plate. Installing it messes up the vehicle’s drag coefficient. Many Tesla “purists” don’t install the front plate here in CA and game the system instead. The service center has to drill holes into the nose cone to install it. Or, you can drill them yourself! (I’m so sure I would do that!) This has been a topic of discussion on the Tesla site. Because the temporary window sticker had to remain in the front window for so long while waiting for the front plate to be installed, it took me 48 minutes to remove it. What a mess! [They installed the plate.]

Customer Interaction

Through the years I have owned numerous Hondas, a Toyota, a Nissan, several Lexus, plus an Acura or two or three. All of these service centers have had exceptional customer interactions. Their phone manner is professional. They provide, no, they volunteer timely information about repairs and time frames. When service center visits were completed they reviewed what they did to the car. They seemed to go out of their way to be attentive and to be very helpful.

The Tesla is without doubt the most expensive automobile I’ve ever owned. It’s in a completely different price range. I expected the service center experience to at least be on a par with my encounters with Lexus. That was not the case.

I don’t mean to imply that the people at the service center were rude, curt, dismissive, or any such thing. They weren’t. However, they lack the professional attentiveness to which I had grown accustomed in a much lower price range.

Here’s an example: I checked the car in for its service visit. However, every interaction that they had with me, they called me by the wrong name. When I told him who I was, they still called me by the wrong name. When I called to see if the car was ready to be picked up (Why did I even have to call?), they initially couldn’t find our vehicle because they were looking under the wrong name. Now that I think about it, they never called me my correct name. I guess I would describe their phone manner as clumsy and a bit awkward. There “in person” customer manner is somewhat similar.

On a good note: they paid for the Enterprise SUV rental car. (Enterprise was even more polished in their interactions with me.) And, because the Tesla must go back in again for the same repair, Tesla has offered to come pick the vehicle up. (In all of my years of car ownership, I never had to return the vehicle because the repair was not done properly.)

Concluding Thought

Tesla has done some incredible and innovative things. They have shaken up the automobile industry. They have transformed the automotive sales experience. They made a beautiful car that’s fun to drive. We chose to invest in this company because we very much want them to be successful. For so many reasons, we want electric vehicles to become the norm.

However, Tesla needs to quickly come up to speed with other luxury car brands when it comes to the ownership experience. I’m all for the nerdy geeks and am kind of one myself, but being a nerdy geek shop is hurting them relative to the ownership experience. When it comes to their automobile, people don’t just want a user experience that interfaces with technology. People expect an ownership experience—a relationship—with a work of art that just happens to provide them with transportation, is geeky cool, is doing more to save the planet, and, in this price range, comes with an adoring support team that celebrates their patrons.