Elon Musk might not be able to effectively manage Twitter, build a Hyperloop, or fly a rocket into space without exploding. But at least the business that brought him global fame and wealth can deliver on its core promises, right?
A new Reuters report calls into question Tesla’s ability to do the one thing that its vehicles were supposed to be good at: dominating the electric car industry with exceptional battery range. In fact, according to the report, Tesla intentionally overestimated the battery range displayed on drivers’ dashboards by rigging the software, only to then systematically cancel the service appointments of customers who complained. The company even established an entire Las Vegas “Diversion Team” devoted to canceling range-related appointments. According to Reuters:
Inside the Nevada team’s office, some employees celebrated canceling service appointments by putting their phones on mute and striking a metal xylophone, triggering applause from coworkers who sometimes stood on desks.
Earlier this year, Tesla was fined for false advertising by South Korean regulators who determined that the company exaggerated its range estimates, which were far greater than the range estimates of other electric car manufacturers. For context, the Chevy Bolt’s estimated range is 259 miles, the Nissan LEAF’s is 149, while the Tesla Model S’s is 405. Car review website Edmunds tested five Teslas models that failed to reach their advertised range, while 9 out of 10 models from other manufacturers exceeded expectations.
I recently watched an episode of How To with John Wilson in which Wilson buys a used car for a price that seems too good to be true. He later discovers an extra odometer in the trunk, showing far more mileage than the one on the dashboard. Tesla’s reported scheming may not be so brazen, but when drivers are reporting battery ranges 200 miles less than advertised, it’s hard not to think that customers are getting a raw deal.