Tesla says it is catching up on long service wait times, which it reports is in part a result of a backlog of customers who had been holding off servicing appointments due to the global pandemic.
At its Q3 2021 earnings call on Thursday (Australia time), the company reported that it is putting considerable effort into increasing the number of service centres as well as the number of Superchargers it operates, which have also been in high demand in overseas markets.
“On cash, we generated record operating cash flows of $3.1 billion and continue to invest heavily in the build-out of manufacturing, supercharging and service capacity,” the company wrote in its latest investor presentation.
But with wait times for servicing reaching into months at times, Tesla CFO Zachary Kirkhorn said he believes a number of factors have contributed to the backlog.
“We have seen an increase in service wait times throughout the summer, and is a couple of things that have contributed to that, based on the information that we have,” said Kirkhorn.
“The first is that, and I think this is kind of not this is not unique to us is that the return to some sense of normalcy in a post-pandemic world has happened I think more quickly than most people expected.”
Additionally, he attributed the rise in service requests to the fact people were driving more now that there were increased freedoms.
And, and what we’re seeing here is that the number of miles that people are driving has increased,” he said.
“And so there’s a bit of a catch up,” he said, adding that other factors such as a shortage of parts have played a role.
“At the same time, in the macro-environment here, logistics, … sourcing parts has become increasingly more difficult, which is well-known issue in the world right now, as well as, as challenges in the labour marke,” he said.
(Side note: anecdotally, the problem doesn’t seem to have been so bad in Australia although there are reports of some appointments being pushed back weeks at a time as Tesla waits to source parts.)
Kirkhorn says the company has been working hard at reducing these wait times, which have come down as a result.
But there remain problems in some locations that will only be resolved in adding locations.
“And so, over the last year we’ve grown our physical footprint of service centres by 35%, we’ve grown our footprint of mobile repair by over 40%,” said Kirkhorn.
“We’re also adding staffing as quickly as we can in the areas that are most impacted by the imbalance of supply and demand for service.”
But he reminded investors that, “the best service is no service.”
“And so, we have been incredibly focused, as a company, both on the initial quality of our vehicles and reliability of our vehicles. And we’ve seen pretty substantial improvements in both of those metrics over the long term,” he said.
A rollout of more Tesla superchargers is also underway. With Tesla the largest seller of electric vehicles worldwide, its Supercharging network is increasingly in demand (and as we note here, Superchargers are not meant for charging to 100%).
Tesla is planning to increase the number of Superchargers in its network three-fold in the next two years, although as Musk confirmed on Twitter shortly after the call, Tesla’s navigation service can also direct drivers to less busy Superchargers (where there are enough in close proximity to do so).
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 21, 2021
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.