Tesla dismantles Roadster for owner’s repair just before warranty expires

It's no secret electric car maker Tesla Motors aspires to be the Apple of the auto industry, and among Apple's hallmarks is fixing or replacing equipment promptly in the name of customer service. That's how a Tesla Roadster owner had the entire rear end of his car dismantled and repaired for a one-inch crack — at Tesla's invitation, just before his warranty expired.

While surveys show the general reputation of auto dealer service bays rising, it's easy to find complaints from owners who turn up with a problem only to be told it's not covered by warranty. Having issues arise just when a warranty expires can happen to anyone, and it's rare to hear of a dealer telling customers to get a major repair done before the warranty expires.

But just like Apple made its fortune being a different kind of computer, Tesla aspires to be a different kind of car company. Instead of franchising dealers who see service bays as money makers, Tesla owns all its stores. Because most don't have a full service department, Tesla employs "Rangers" — traveling mechanics who will perform some checks at a customer's home, but can also have cars shipped to the nearest service center when necessary.

And who, as one Seattle-area Roadster owner found out, make suggestions that might get them fired at a typical dealership:

"My Roadster's within a few hundred miles of going out of warranty, so I took it in for its 36K maintainence. Since the warranty was almost done, my local Ranger decided to go above and beyond and look for any possible problems with the car. In addition to more normal things, he found a tiny crack in a weld in the subframe.

He told me that if the crack got bigger and the weld broke that the car would start making a clicking noise. While he could have done nothing or just redone the weld, Tesla's policy is to replace stuff if its at all wrong. So, he decided to replace the entire subframe assembly. This requires removing the entire back half of the car."

Photos of the fractured weld on a Tesla owners' forum show a crack about the size of a dime. Tesla could have waited for the crack to worsen, then charged full fare for the repair only when the owner complained. That would be well within bounds at many traditional dealerships, but it would leave an owner upset that his car needed expensive emergency surgery after just a few years of ownership. Being different might cost a little more today, but if Tesla can survive, it could pay off.

Photo courtesy bolosky via Tesla Motors Forum