"When you buy a car off the lot seeing 350-mile, 400-mile range, it makes you feel good."
A new exposé alleges that not only did Tesla rig and inflate its battery range readouts, but that it conspired to cancel service appointments with duped customers to boot.
As Reuters reports based on interviews with Tesla insiders, the electric vehicle maker both deliberately inflated its battery range to sell more cars and later began employing teams to divert the crush of service appointment requests stemming from the problem.
The range-inflation scheme began roughly a decade ago, the report claims, when the company created algorithms that painted a "rosy" projection of how far its cars could go on a full battery — generally around 350 miles. Once the battery fell below 50 percent of charge, however, the range would fall to projections that were closer to how far it could actually go, which, per various studies cited in the report, was often between 12 and 26 percent lower than the inflated readouts.
Employed for marketing reasons, this allegedly intentional disparity appears to have been ordered from the top down.
"Elon wanted to show good range numbers when fully charged," one person familiar with the scheme told Reuters. "When you buy a car off the lot seeing 350-mile, 400-mile range, it makes you feel good."
While it's unclear how long the alleged scheme might have continued, drivers who own older Teslas continue to experience jarring disparities in range estimates, according to Reuters — and when they try to get the company to fix it, they're often met with members of a so-called "Diversion Team" tasked specifically with stemming the tide of range-related service requests.
Employees on this Las Vegas-based team, which was allegedly created last year as the company's sales were soaring, are reportedly instructed to push customers to have virtual diagnostics rather than scheduling an in-person appointment at a dealership.
These "virtual service advisors" are advised to tell irate customers that the range estimates are exactly that — and when they successfully "divert" an appointment, per Reuters, they sometimes alert their coworkers by ringing a xylophone and standing on desks and cheering.
The claims get even worse from there, with Reuters' insider sources alleging that if advisors learn via remote diagnostics that there's something else wrong with a customer's car, they're instructed not to tell them, and that requesting service appointment issues for range issues via the app has been disabled.
These jarring allegations, if true, could constitute a massive and intentional breach of customer trust and expectations — and could potentially open up the company to legal issues as well, though that's nothing new for Tesla.
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