Dusseldorf When investors' concerns became too loud, it burst TeslaBoss Elon Musk sometime the collar. In a telephone conference he wiped away the concerns of his investors. If the future belongs to a car, then Tesla. And if you buy something else, you end up feeling like he's bought a horse.
For his fans it is these full-bodied promises that provide great expectations. For years, the Tesla fans were waiting for the Model 3, the mass model that would herald no less than a new era for Tesla – from the high-priced niche provider to the complete automaker of the new era. But with the market entry in Germany, the Tesla fans are slowly beginning to experience disillusionment.
Stefan Möller, CEO of Nextmove, has been one of Tesla's best customers in Germany for years. His car rental specializes in electric cars. Of his 380 cars in the fleet, 60 are from Tesla. The Model 3 is "currently the best electric car in the world," says Möller.
Nextmove had ordered 100 copies, after having already had good experiences with Model S and Model X. The Model 3 was supposed to become the central model of the Nextmove fleet.
The disappointment followed on acceptance. The first 15 cars were handed over to Nextmove in Berlin in the spring of 2019, but a quick check showed that the cars were anything but faultless. Damaged tires, missing emergency call buttons and moisture in the headlights – hardly a Model 3, which had ordered his company at Tesla, had been faultless. Transfer protocols record up to eight defects per copy.
First Nextmove and Tesla agreed on a repair procedure, the Leipzig wanted to take the vehicles in batches and pay locally. A Tesla employee cashed this agreement shortly thereafter, the agreement had burst.
Nextmove boss speaks of "conflagration"
Instead, the car maker gave his customer an ultimatum: Within the next 24 hours, several cars should be removed at different locations, otherwise one would cancel the order. Möller suspects that Tesla wanted to see the vehicles delivered shortly before the end of the quarter. Nextmove refused, the following day the cancellation email came.
Tesla, however, stated on request that Nextmove had canceled the order itself. One had just been in the process of remedying the deficiencies. Möller says he can not explain this claim that the facts are clear. As a receipt he published mails, which are to show the contact with Tesla.
He speaks of a "conflagration", dozens of customers called the company and sought advice. "Answering machines are not intercepted, mails are not answered – and have been for years," says Möller.
In August Möller finally decided to go public. With a press release and several Youtube videos, he made the conflict public. "We stung into a wasp nest," he says. The videos have received over 100,000 views so far, and numerous media have taken up the topic.
For Tesla, the allegations of car rental are uncomfortable. Because for years, the electric pioneer praised for the high reliability of vehicles and direct customer service. But with the entry into the mass market, Elon Musk seems to have overtaxed not only his production but also his service.
Many disappointed customers
Nextmove boss Möller thinks that Tesla could have taken over. Already during the production Tesla had to fight with problems again and again. At the end, Elon Musk personally stayed at the factory to rescue his company from production hell. Now it seems as if the Elektropionier landed directly in the service hell.
The international delivery of the mass model – at the same time in China and Europe – is crunching. A nationwide service infrastructure with workshops is missing. On the website, the car maker has only seven service centers in Germany, Tesla said last, to expand the mobile service in Europe by 50 percent.
Because Nextmove is far from the only disappointed customer. In forums and social networks the criticism of Tesla grows: The service is hardly attainable – neither by telephone nor in writing. Repairs would often take several months. Spare parts are missing. And with goodwill one can seldom or never expect. "Overloaded staff, underground service," writes a user on Youtube.
For some loyal customers, bad service is a livelihood problem. The Dutch landlord EC-Rent, who specialized in electric cars like Nextmove, even had to stop the entire operation because problems with different Tesla models could not be corrected in time.
Insights into the Tesla factory in Fremont
The American electric cars have been the backbone of the rental fleet, says owner Chris Heiligers. In some cases, however, 40 percent of the cars were not for rent. In December 2018 the company gave up. Heiligers believes that the public criticism of the customers will move Tesla to a better service. "She could not care less," he says.
Tesla rejects the allegations of customers so far. In a statement, the car manufacturer emphasizes that the vehicle quality has reached "new heights", problems with delivered vehicles would be remedied quickly. As many customers bring their cars back to the workshop for defects, said a Tesla spokesman on request not.
German customers are so far largely satisfied with their cars, a Tesla spokesman emphasized instead. Service appointments should be agreed immediately via an app, the car maker promises an appointment within a month.
Above all, Tesla has to improve the service quickly so as not to bury the loyal clientele at the end. Otherwise threatens the Elektropionier even his pioneering role to lose, fears Nextmove boss Möller. In the coming year at the latest, established carmakers want to come onto the market with competitive e-cars. And Daimler. BMW and Mercedes would know how good customer service works.
More: The market for electric cars in Germany is growing. These are the most popular models.