100 new service centers, 1,400 new technicians, 350 new mobile service trucks — that’s the Tesla plan to expand its service capabilities to satisfy the needs of its customers as it begins production of the Model 3, its first mass-market car — or so it hopes.
Tesla does business like no other car company and that applies to its service operations as well. Tesla says it has analyzed the data from Model 3 reservation holders to decide where to base those new service vans. The higher the density of Tesla owners, the more likely it is a mobile service facility will be nearby.
The company boasts that 90% of all service related issues can be diagnosed remotely while a car sits in its owner’s garage. If a problem is found, it can be corrected wirelessly as well, often with a simple software update. When actual service is required, such as scheduled maintenance, Tesla says its service centers utilize an optimized workflow model that makes the process 4 times faster than a normal repair facility while requiring 3 times less space.
Tesla has come in for some criticism from its customers — who are perhaps the most loyal in the entire automobile business, so they are least likely to complain — that getting appointments at existing Tesla service centers is often a slow process with long wait times. After all, not everything can be fixed over the internet. In addition, some customers live hours away from the nearest service facility.
To address those concerns, Tesla is adding 350 mobile service vans that can come to the customer instead of the customer coming to a service center. In a video released by Tesla yesterday, a technician is shown changing a tire on the side of the road using one such service van. Even Elon must see the fine irony of using a truck with an internal combustion engine to come to the aid of an electric car. No doubt, he has a plan to address that shortcoming soon.
The Tesla video contains other information designed to soothe any jitters new customers may have about getting their cars serviced. The company is about to increase production by a factor of five. If all goes as planned — and things in the world of Musk usually do, eventually — over the next 12 months, the company will go from building about 100,000 cars a year to 500,000 cars a year. Elon has said his company will be building “millions” of cars a year in a few years time.
Servicing all those cars will put more stress on a service network that is already stretched to its limits in many parts of the world. Going forward, Tesla owners will be able to schedule service appointments directly from their cars via their touchscreens. But that doesn’t mean they won’t have to wait days, weeks, or months for one as some do now. Nor does the company offer any guidance about how much mobile service might cost. Don’t expect it to be free.
Tesla says its service operation is not intended to be a major source of income to the company — another departure from business as usual in the industry. At traditional dealerships, the service department is often the only part of the business that makes money. Tesla’s efforts to disrupt the auto industry status quo from top to bottom continues unabated.