New car has Tesla adding to its ser­vice

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - BUSINESS & FARM - DEE-ANN DURBIN

DETROIT — Elec­tric car­maker Tesla is ex­pand­ing its ser­vice op­er­a­tions and hir­ing more than 1,000 tech­ni­cians to meet ex­pected de­mand for its new Model 3 sedan.

The Model 3, cheaper than Tesla’s other mod­els, goes on sale this month and is ex­pected to at­tract hun­dreds of thou­sands of new cus­tomers to the brand.

To ac­com­mo­date them, the com­pany is adding 100 new ser­vice cen­ters world­wide over the next year, rais­ing its to­tal num­ber of ser­vice cen­ters to 250. The new ser­vice cen­ters will be in ar­eas that have the most reser­va­tion-hold­ers for the Model 3.

Tesla also is adding 350 vans to its mo­bile ser­vice fleet, mostly in the U.S. The vans go to own­ers’ homes or of­fices, and re­pair their cars. The vans are equipped with tools and re­place­ment parts as well as an espresso ma­chine, snacks and kids’ toys.

Un­til now, Tesla had around 30 mo­bile re­pair vans, which were used mostly in cases where the owner lived too far from a ser­vice cen­ter. About six months ago, the com­pany be­gan de­ploy­ing the vans in the San Fran­cisco

● area to ease the bur­den on its ser­vice cen­ters and see if they could help meet an­tic­i­pated de­mand for the Model 3. Cus­tomers were happy with the new ar­range­ment, so the com­pany de­cided to roll out mo­bile ser­vice in more lo­ca­tions.

Tesla is hir­ing 1,400 new ser­vice tech­ni­cians this year to staff the ser­vice cen­ters and mo­bile re­pair vans.

At a start­ing price of $35,000, the Model 3 is about half the cost of Tesla’s two other mod­els. It has said it ex­pects to make 500,000 ve­hi­cles in 2018, up from 84,000 last year.

Like its stores, which are owned by the com­pany and not by fran­chised deal­ers, Tesla’s ser­vice model is un­usual. Tesla Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Elon Musk said sev­eral years ago that un­like tra­di­tional deal­er­ships, Tesla didn’t in­tend to make a profit on ser­vice and re­pairs, partly be­cause elec­tric cars don’t need reg­u­lar oil changes or other main­te­nance that gaso­line-pow­ered cars do.

Tesla said it’s charg­ing the same amount for non-war­ranty re­pairs whether they’re done at ser­vice cen­ters or through mo­bile vans. It hasn’t re­leased de­tails on the war­ranty plan for the Model 3, so it’s not yet clear if it will match Tesla’s other ve­hi­cles. The Model S and Model X have a four-year, 50,000-mile ve­hi­cle war­ranty and an eightyear bat­tery war­ranty with un­lim­ited miles.

While other lux­ury brands like Lin­coln and Ge­n­e­sis will pick up ve­hi­cles from cus­tomers and take them to a ser­vice cen­ter, Tesla doesn’t want cars to go to a ser­vice cen­ter if re­pairs can be done re­motely. The com­pany says 80 per­cent of re­pairs to its cars, in­clud­ing re­plac­ing the tires or fix­ing elec­tronic glitches, can be done with­out a lift, which means it’s just as easy to per­form them out of a mo­bile re­pair van. That leaves ser­vice cen­ters free to con­cen­trate on more com­pli­cated re­pairs that re­quire a lift, like mo­tor or bat­tery prob­lems.

The sys­tem isn’t per­fect. In on­line owner fo­rums, some Tesla driv­ers have com­plained of long waits for ser­vice and in­abil­ity to use trusted lo­cal re­pair shops be­cause they aren’t cer­ti­fied by Tesla. Tesla cer­ti­fies some re­pair shops to do body work when the out­side of the car is dam­aged, but shops have to go through spe­cial train­ing to get cer­ti­fied.

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