Tesla service is criticized in BMW’s backyard
Stefan Moeller began this year with an ambitious target: to make his car-rental company Nextmove the biggest Tesla Inc. customer in Germany by adding 100 Model 3s to its fleet. He likened the electric car’s arrival on Europe’s shores to a tsunami washing over a region that’s been slow to embrace battery-powered autos.
But the powerful wave Moeller expected has collapsed to a trickle. After weeks of back and forth over unfulfilled repair work and quality issues involving the initial 15 sedans that Tesla delivered — from scratched bumpers to moisture trapped behind the headlights — the order of the remaining 85 Model 3s was called off. Tesla also tried to deliver cars that had been previously registered, which would have locked Nextmove out of Germany’s electric-car incentive program and potential tax refunds, Moeller said.
“The Model 3 is a fantastic car. Some of our customers totally fell in love with it,” said Moeller, whose Leipzig-based company has more than 300 electric vehicles in its fleet, including 38 Model S and a dozen Model X. “But the organization behind it doesn’t match that. It’s really sobering.”
Subpar service could be a barrier to Tesla making more of an impact in Germany, where exacting car owners value how painstakingly their BMWs and Mercedes are cared for just as much as the speed of the Autobahn. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk, who’s famously inimical to Twitter critiques, acknowledged earlier this year that a lack of service centers in Germany was hampering the company’s growth there.
Tesla believes Nextmove’s decision to cancel its remaining Model 3 order wasn’t entirely due to quality issues, and was largely influenced by frustration with an unrelated dispute earlier in the year, according to a representative. The carmaker was in the process of making repairs and had provided loaner vehicles to the customer at the time the order was canceled.
The Tesla representative blamed the registration issue that Nextmove described on a temporary issue with matching identification numbers to vehicles and said the issue was resolved for impacted customers.
Poor service is an issue that’s already plagued Tesla in Norway, Europe’s largest electric-car market per capita. Dented and sloppily painted vehicles have fueled the highest level of complaints per unit among all automakers, according to the nation’s consumer watchdog.
In Europe, Tesla is racing against time as more established players wake up to the electric future. The continent is projected to be the world’s second-largest driver of electric cars in the next decade, trailing only China.
Moeller said the remainder of Nextmove’s Model 3 order was canceled after he demanded an improved process for handovers and fixes. And he says the carmaker’s issues extend beyond the Model 3.
He spent two years waiting for the carmaker to replace a seat in a Model X that was delivered with a hole in it. A Model 3 arrived more recently with a protruding bulge on one tire.
The Tesla representative said the company’s data doesn’t indicate any unusual vehicle quality issues specific to Germany or anywhere else. The company said there’s a small chance cars are blemished during transport to customers and that it addresses those issues quickly.
Nextmove isn’t an isolated case. German social-media platforms and online forums are abuzz with customers airing complaints about faulty parts from sensors to suspensions.