Russell Graves is a mechanic, tinkerer, and fixer of things, including automobiles. He has a long history of rescuing cars from wrecking yards and putting them back on the road. Recently, he created a blog post about why he thinks Tesla is building throwaway cars.
Graves says the lifespan of a car is determined by how much it costs to repair it so it remains roadworthy. Once a car costs too much to repair, it becomes a parts car, no matter how much of its useful life remains in theory. Graves believes that a Tesla will very quickly be more expensive to repair than they are worth. Despite Tesla’s claim that each vehicle will have a power train capable of withstanding 1 million miles, few if any owners will keep a vehicle for that long. They simply won’t be able to afford to.
Graves highlights the lack of aftermarket parts and independent repair shops as two factors likely to make repairing high mileage Teslas prohibitively expensive. Only Massachusetts has passed legislation requiring all manufacturers to make their repair and service manuals available to owners and repair shops.
If you live in any other state, you simply cannot obtain the information needed to repair your Tesla at any price.
In essence, says Graves, you may hold the title to the car, but Tesla retains the rights to all the software inside. It can decide to deactivate any car it feels is not repaired correctly. Getting a car inspected is totally at the mercy of your local Tesla repair facility at current rates. What happens if Tesla doesn’t agree that you have properly repaired “your” car? “Tough,” says Graves.
Tesla is not the only manufacturer who is taking this “The software belongs to us” approach. Most car companies today assert that the software in the cars they build is proprietary intellectual property protected by the same federal laws that apply to music and video recordings. The difference, says Graves, is that aftermarket parts are available for those cars, and independent repair shops exist to perform work at affordable rates.
Graves also has misgivings about the number of exceptions, exclusions, special circumstances, and maintenance requirements buried in the fine print of Tesla’s original factory and extended warranties. In essence, he claims Tesla can void your warranty for any number of reasons and you, the customer, have very little recourse other than to file suit.
Graves is especially concerned that buyers of the upcoming mass-market Model 3 may find Tesla’s myriad restrictions on parts and repairs will render their cars not worth fixing after relatively few miles. For a company that is based almost exclusively on owner satisfaction and positive word of mouth, that may be something Elon Musk and Tesla Motors should think long and hard about.