A GATED compound, behind a Tesco supermarket in Essex, is a resting place for the world’s best-known electric cars. If you are the owner of a Tesla living in south east England and your electric dream has ended abruptly in a road accident, the chances are that your car will arrive here for repair.
Hidden from the busy A127 by a McDonald’s drive-thru, the industrial storage yard is a far cry from the smart steel and glass dealerships where Teslas are sold. Delays caused by the arrival of parts mean that Teslas end up sitting for weeks among the damaged and wrecked carcasses of other vehicles.
Teslas may be futuristic in design, but the process of getting them fixed after accidents can seem far from hi-tech. Earlier this week, half a dozen damaged Teslas — including several of the Model S, which costs from £65,000, and Model X, priced from £71,000 — were standing in the rain, in varying states of disintegration.
Staff are realistic about the chances of them being fixed soon. “We have to wait for parts to be shipped from California and it sometimes takes a long time,” said one.
Repairs are done to a high standard but technicians admit they have no control over the speed at which body panels, bumpers, lights, or suspension components — to name a few of the most frequently damaged parts — arrive from Tesla’s factory in Fremont, near San Francisco.
Forums set up by Tesla owners suggest that the problem extends beyond the South East of England.
“I’ve waited over six weeks so far after hitting a pothole on the M6 on 6th Jan,” one driver wrote on a Tesla owners’ private Facebook group. “The bodyshop in Birmingham says they can’t start until all the parts arrive. Still a few parts missing so no start date in sight… I’m gutted.”
Another owner wrote: “My Model S is at Individual Specialist Cars [a Birmingham repairer] next to a white one with broken front suspension, and has been since December, awaiting parts.”
A third customer commented: “I had a minor accident where a car turned into me across traffic lights in December causing minimal damage to my offside front wing and bumper. It has taken almost ten weeks to put right. Waiting for parts to be shipped across seems to be the issue here.”
Another member of the Facebook group, wrote: “Parts supply is a continuing issue, but I’m told it is improving with the expansion of the parts warehouse at Tilburg [Netherlands].”
“The parts supply network is not as well established as some other manufacturers’ but our customers understand this”
Independent garages confirm that Tesla owners appear to experience some of the longest delays in getting their cars fixed. George Brown, a senior manager at the website WhoCanFixMyCar.com, which provides repair quotes for car owners, says this is because Teslas require special parts that have to be made at the factory, or shipped from a distribution centre on the West Coast of the US.
“Unfortunately, the delays can be very frustrating for owners,” he said. “If, for example, you own a [Vauxhall] Corsa, or a [VW] Golf, parts are often made by a third-party company such as Valeo or Brembo and kept in stock by a local supplier. The same part will fit many different models. That’s not the case for Teslas, where all the parts have to come from the manufacturer.”
Ala Miah, who runs Autowerke, an independent garage based in north London that services and repairs Teslas, said most of his customers were prepared to accept that because the car is so unique in design, it may take longer to repair.
He said: “The parts supply network is not as well established as some other manufacturers’ but our customers understand this.”
The longest Miah had had to wait for as part was three weeks, he told us.
Individual Specialist Cars, the company referred to in some online posts, did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publishing.
The hold up in repairs is not just a result of the length of time it takes for parts to be shipped from the US. Even residents of California, Tesla’s home state, have taken to owners’ forums to air their grievances.
One owner wrote: “It’s not the bodyshop’s [fault]. I really miss my car and I’m starting to get pissed [off]. My insurance company only covered 30 days [for a courtesy car]. I guess Tesla doesn’t care that I’ll be out of pocket another $2,000-$3,000 because they can’t source another rear passenger window or interior door panel. If I ran my business like this I wouldn’t exist.”
Another owner of a Model S, commenting on another forum, said: “I am in England and receiving terrible service from Tesla for my [Model S P85]. Such a shame that Tesla have produced an outstanding car and throw it away by such poor service. I will run my car then return to Mercedes when they bring out a similar [electric] model. I have reached the end of my tether with Tesla Service.”
He added: “Called Tesla and asked to speak to a senior manager and told I was not allowed to do so. No doubt Jon McNeill [former Tesla President of Sales and Service] will receive his $700,000 bonus as it seems we are unable to report terrible service.”
Jon McNeill left Tesla in February and didn’t respond directly to a request for comment, but had written on one forum:
“To make contacting the right person at Tesla easier, we’ve streamlined our contacts for you: for any customer issue, you can call us (877-798-3752), tweet us (@teslaservice) or email us (CustomerSupport@tesla.com).
“For body shop or collision repair issues, you can get a Tesla Body Shop Customer Advocate to assist you by emailing us (BodyShopSupport@tesla.com) or calling 877-798-3752. To escalate any issue, you can log into your Tesla account, click Support, then Executive Escalation.”
Some owners report good experiences with Tesla’s repair and servicing operation, especially if car can still be driven while it is awaiting repair.
One owner wrote on Facebook: “I’ve had my car repaired by Tesla a couple of times now. I have been very impressed and [the standard of service] has been considerably better than other garages.
“Tesla can remotely diagnose most issues which means there is no diagnostic fee, and when your car arrives to be repaired the parts have already been ordered and are waiting there.
“The staff have always been incredibly helpful and when you arrive you are offered free tea and coffee and Jaffa cakes, regardless of whether the issue is big or small.
“I’ve often had my car picked up from home or work, with a courtesy Tesla being loaned while it is being repaired. I’ve always used the Bristol service centre and have had amazing customer service.”
Another owner said: “I had a problem a few months ago when someone stole the glass from my car’s wing mirror. I phoned my local Tesla service centre who confirmed they had a replacement in stock, which they then fitted while I waited – and charged me nothing. In my experience, that is typical of Tesla’s excellent service.”
A Tesla spokesperson told us: “Tesla consistently achieves the highest customer satisfaction ratings of any auto manufacturer because we do everything we can to ensure owners have the best possible experience. Our approach is to continuously improve and build upon the customer experience with things like remote diagnostics, over-the-air updates and mobile service technicians who will come to your home or office to repair your vehicle.
“Our approved third party bodyshop network has grown from seven locations in 2016 to 49 locations today and we continue to expand the network. We are also continually working with our approved bodyshops on streamlining their processes, increasing their performance, capacity as well as local parts availability to further reduce waiting times for our UK owners.”