Model 3 Reservation Holder Survey Underlines Tesla’s Mass Market Challenge

 

They waited for reservations… will they also wait for service? (image courtesy Investors Business Daily)

Much of the critical coverage of Tesla Motors, both here at Daily Kanban and elsewhere, has focused on issues that Tesla is able to get away with as a small-volume manufacturer serving an affluent, early-adopter market segment. From manufacturing bottlenecks to quality control problems, from inconsistent, hype-happy communication to poor service, Tesla has been able to weather a storm of problems because its customers and fans are so patient with and passionate about the company. But as Tesla moves from expensive, low-volume cars to the mass market Model 3 these problems are taking on a new significance. In part this is because higher volumes increase the likelihood of quality and service problems, and in part it is because mass market customers who depend on a single car for their daily routine are more demanding than luxury car buyers who can always take the Lexus to work if their Tesla is broken.

Given Tesla’s pattern of releasing cars with insufficient testing as well as its chronic quality problems, it’s safe to assume that the Model 3 will face its fair share of issues. Thus, investing in service infrastructure that will allow Tesla to promptly and affordably repair and upgrade high volumes of Model 3 is extremely important. As Bertel has written about at Forbes, Tesla is behind the curve on those investments and it will cost billions to catch them up. Just yesterday a piece by former Tesla employee Evan Niu dramatically illustrated just how far Tesla has to go to improve its service time, which has dragged on for 8 long months in Niu’s case. Now an exclusive study of about 800 Tesla Model 3 reservation holders, EV owners and luxury brand car owners conducted last year on behalf of a major automaker and provided to Daily Kanban by an industry source, reveals why Tesla’s quality and service woes are so critical to the success or failure of the Model 3.

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The Salt Is Real

SaltFlat

In the eight and a half years since I began studying and writing about the auto industry in a professional capacity, my positions on the topics of the day have rarely failed to cause some level of controversy. I’ve long since lost count of the number of enraged comments, emails and tweets my writing has inspired, and I’ve even had my last name mocked by the White House press secretary during a press gaggle on Air Force One after an Op-Ed I wrote for the New York Times was misquoted by Rush Limbaugh. Once the spokesman of the leader of the free world has made an “Animal House” joke at your expense, every subsequent howl of outrage tends to fade into the background a bit … at least until the most influential automaker in the world smears you with the baseless innuendo and outright lies.

Ever since Tesla Motors wrote a salty blog post responding to my investigation of its use of non-disclosure agreements in return for “goodwill repairs,” a thousand flowers of anger, hatred and slander have bloomed across the internet. An online lynch mob, seemingly unleashed by Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk, has flooded social media, forums and comment sections with false and defamatory statements about me, my motivations and my reporting. Were these attacks in any way fact-based or substantive, we might be able to have an interesting and illuminating debate about the issue at hand. But because Tesla apparently chose to attack me personally, in vicious, indiscriminate terms seemingly calculated to cause as much harm to my professional credibility as possible, it’s time to get truly salty. In fact, if you’re following a low-sodium diet, you may want to go ahead and stop reading now.

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Tesla Suspension Breakage: It’s Not The Crime, It’s The Coverup

TeslaBallJoint

For several months now, reports have circulated in comment sections and forum threads about a possible defect in Tesla’s vehicles that may cause suspension control arms to break. Many of those reports appeared to come from a single, highly-motivated and potentially unreliable source, a fact which led many to dismiss them as crankery. But as more reports of suspension failure in Teslas have come in, Daily Kanban has investigated the matter and can now report on this deeply troubling issue.

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The Great Auto Safety Crash, Or, Why You Need To Be A Lawyer To Do An Automotive Journalist’s Work

GMCobaltNHTSA

I'm not an automotive journalist, but I played one on TV in the 1960's...

I’m not an automotive journalist, but I played one on TV in the 1960’s…

Of all the automotive sector topics covered by the business media, defect recalls are consistently one of the most tricky to cover. Most defects are the inevitable products of immensely complex supply chains and constant price pressure, and recalls for them are ultimately a sign of a company responding to the problem. And with some 22 million vehicles recalled from the US market in 2013, consumers can hardly be expected to know which ones represent grounds for real concern.

Because automakers control all the information about the products they make, reporters on the automotive safety beat have little choice but rely on the company line for their stories. Only the threat of investigation by the National Highway Transit Safety Administration compels automakers to fully reveal their dirty laundry, and only NHTSA’s complaint database gives the public an opportunity to compare their experiences with the company line. No wonder the first real auto safety journalist (and the inspiration for NHTSA’s founding) was a lawyer.

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