Tesla Motors is used to doing things in a big way. Its Model S sedan owns nearly every superlative in the EV realm and gets recharged from something called a “Supercharger.” The company also invented a radical new way to sell these cars, so radical that it’s illegal in many states.
Given that, it’s not surprising that Tesla is extending that same mentality and excellence to one of the less sexy aspects of car ownership: warranties and dealer service.
Tesla says Model S owners will benefit from the “world’s best service and warranty program,” but what does that actually mean?
First off, Tesla is making maintenance cheaper and more convenient. The $600 annual service contract required to preserve warranty coverage is no longer mandatory. Even Tesla CEO Elon Musk had to admit that it was a bit excessive for a car that doesn’t need oil changes.
“We made a slight mistake,” Musk said in a recent press conference, ”in making the service fee mandatory.”
Tesla will also offer valet service and loaner cars free of charge when Model S owners do need to bring their cars in for maintenance.
The loaners will be top-of-the-line 85-kWh Performance models, and each Tesla Service Center will have between two and 10 of the cars. The Service Centers are standalone facilities, separate from Tesla’s mall-based showrooms.
If owners decide they prefer the loaner car to their own, Tesla will sell it to them for its MSRP minus one percent for each month it’s been in service and $1 for each mile on the odometer.
This may sound excessive, but dealers do sometimes have problems getting customers to return loaner cars that are the same as, or in newer condition than, the cars they sent in to be serviced. Tesla might even get a few owners of lesser Model Ss to upgrade.
Critically, Tesla is also expanding its warranty coverage to include “user error,” a complete about-face from the company’s response to the “bricking” of Roadsters, in which battery packs were accidentally allowed to fully drain and were destroyed, rendering the cars immobile.
At the time, Tesla stated that “bricking” was the equivalent of an internal combustion car being run without its oil changed, clearly placing the problem into the “user error” category.
While Musk did not explicitly mention the Roadster bricking problem in his remarks, he did say that the changes to the warranty were made to address concerns over battery packs.
“We want to say, don’t worry about the battery, it’s going to be fine,” Musk said.
It’s hard to say what makes an automotive warranty the “world’s best,” but Tesla’s changes to it coverage and service programs should make people feel more comfortable owning the company’s cars, which is no small feat for vehicles packed with technology that is about as new as new gets.
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