Tesla Service Problems - Growing Pains

So right before I went on my holiday road trip I had my first experience with Tesla Service. What happened? How’d it go? Well, the end result was exactly what I wanted, but it wasn’t without a few hiccups.

This is a little bit of a different type of video for me, so let’s see how this goes. Before I dive into what happened, I still absolutely love this car and haven’t changed my opinion from my original review ... at all. And every encounter I’ve had when talking to Tesla employees directly has been amazing. They’ve always been incredibly professional and thoughtful in how they’ve dealt with me. But there is a takeaway I have from this that concerns me a little.

Okay, so what happened? My car had a strange whistling that would happen at high speeds, or there was very strong wind that could cause it to happen at lower speeds. The closest analogy would be like a boiling tea kettle. I tried recording it, but it never came through on the recording well.

I didn’t notice it when I first got the car because most of the driving I’ve been doing is local commuting type of driving. When I would hear it, it would be sporadic and not overly loud. The other oddity to the sound was that it never happened when it was raining out, and my first big road trip I took was in rainy, damp weather. So it never happened. In time though, I started picking up on the whistle more when the weather was nicer out and I was driving faster. To the point where once you see or hear something, you can’t unsee it or unhear it.

And speaking of seeing, there was also a very minor distortion in the windshield I hadn’t noticed in the beginning either. It didn’t impact my ability to see out of the windshield and was off to the side, but just like the whistle, I couldn’t unsee it once I saw it. So I contacted Tesla and set up a service appointment right before Christmas.

Everyone at the service center was super friendly and accommodating. They had a service tech take a drive with me, so I could point out the sound I was hearing. When I got up to speed and the tea kettle reached its boiling point, the tech said, “wow, yeah, I can hear that ... never heard that before, but that’s kind of annoying.” At least I knew I wasn’t nuts. His immediate reaction was that they’d probably need to switch out the windshield, which would also solve the minor distortion. They provided me a loaner and sent me on my way. Everything was great so far.

But this is where things went sideways a little bit. I really do appreciate how Tesla Service will contact you by phone, text, or email. Any way you want to connect, they’ll do it. They promised me that they’d call when they knew for sure what was going to happen. No call.

The morning of day 2 I tried calling the service center, went through the phone tree of options for checking on the status of your car, but only got a busy signal. Wait 5 minutes and try again. Busy signal. Wait 5 minutes and try again. Busy signal. So I emailed at 11:38am. Less than an hour later I get an email that they’re going to replace the windshield that day. I don’t hear anything for the rest of the day.

The morning of day 3, I try calling again. Busy signal each time, so I email again at 10:03am asking if there’s an ETA for when the car might be ready. I have my holiday trip coming up and would like to get my car back for it. No response. At 3:15pm I text asking if there’s an update, and get a response back within 15 minutes saying that they’re continuing to work on the car. They’re aware I’m trying to get the car back and will get me additional information before they leave. I never hear back again ... even after I text one last time right before they close.

It’s now day 4, and the day before I’m set to leave, and I try calling the service center again with no luck. I give up and decide to call the main Tesla Service switchboard for help. The gentleman that helped me out was amazing, never made me feel rushed, and he took the time he needed to get answers. He was even able to call through the service center for me ... he didn’t get a busy signal. And here’s where it gets extra weird. He found a note in my file that my car was done and ready to be picked up, and could have been picked up the previous day. It was ready and waiting for me to pick up at any point! He was as perplexed as I was that nobody communicated that to me since it was written in my file as if they had.

I immediately drove over to the service center and walked in to find one of the friendly folks there. He didn’t understand why I was getting a busy signal because he had been there the whole time, and he was also shocked that nobody had told me the car was ready. He took me out the car, we did a walk around for me to inspect and approve the work. It was perfect. You couldn’t tell anything had been done, no distortion on the windshield. Perfect. On my drive home, no tea kettle whistle. Perfect. On my 800 mile round trip drive, no whistle. The problem had been solved.

The big negative was the completely broken communication between me and the service center. And that’s the big takeaway I mentioned earlier. I’m a new Tesla owner and my experience ordering the car was great. I’ve never bought a car on a cellphone using Apple Pay for the down payment before. So simple and pleasant. The day I actually got my car was awesome too. Very pleasant employees at the delivery center, never felt rushed. And the car ... the car ... I love it! It’s the best car I’ve ever owned and I’m still not over how fun it is to drive.

But whenever it comes to communication between Tesla and the customer, I’ve had bad experiences. My delivery was delayed multiple times (I have a video on that experience if you haven’t seen it), and my advisor was not good at all with proactive communication. And now with the service center, it’s the same thing. In person, Tesla has been great. The product itself is great. But communication ... not good.

I’ve heard from a lot of you about your deliveries and have heard multiple times about very bad communication issues with Tesla. I don’t want this to get blown out of proportion because It’s in the minority of feedback I hear, but when it happens, it’s bad. Deliveries getting delayed multiple times. Canceled at the last minute ... sometimes as you’re driving to go pick up the car. This is very concerning. Galileo Russell at HyperChange made a compelling video on this topic, so did Brandon Harvard who laid out his Tesla service experience, Rich Rebuilds has a crazy purchase experience video.

Tesla has been growing like crazy. They’ve sold more cars in the end of last year than they sold in their entire history. The growth of the company is absolutely mind boggling, but with such rapid growth also comes growing pains. Tesla’s like a teenager going through puberty and they’ve outgrown their pants. Okay, that’s a bad analogy, but a company is made up of multiple divisions. The manufacturing group (the teenager) has grown super fast to hit the production volume they needed to hit, but the other divisions (the pants) haven’t scaled at the same rate. You end up with service centers getting overloaded with the influx of new owners. Call centers with longer wait times. And service advisors dropping the ball on proactive communication because they can’t seem to keep up.

Looking at this logically, I get it. It’s growing pains and they’ll get through this, but there’s something intangible here that I worry is getting lost. You only get one chance to make a first impression. The communication issues, delays, and hiccups like this can cause significant damage to the Tesla brand. Tesla owners have been super loyal because they’re taken care of and treated so well. But we have new owners, like myself, that sometimes fall through the cracks, get forgotten, delayed, or ignored, and to me that’s a warning sign. This is something Tesla needs to resolve quickly before it gets truly out of hand and their brand takes a huge hit. Tesla ... it’s time to buy yourself a new pair of pants that fit.

And before any Tesla haters jump on this and say, “See! I told you!,” or Tesla fans say, “What are you doing, Matt,” I still have a tremendous amount of respect for the company. Tesla is pulling something off that most people thought they couldn’t. They have an amazing product that is in high demand, and they’re continuing to push the industry to produce more EVs and the technology forward. I worry about this because I care. My worry is seeing a great company get hurt from a self inflicted wound that should be easily solvable, and hopefully will be sooner than later.

So what do you think? Jump into the comments and let me know how your delivery or service center experiences have gone, or if you’ve experienced issues like this. Are you worried? Or am I nuts? Well, I can answer that last one, so maybe not that.