Following Reports of Drive Motor Replacements, Tesla Ups Model S Powertrain Warranty
August 18, 2014 10:06 AM
Elon Musk says that drive motor issues could have been resolved with a $3 part
Tesla Motors Model S
may be the best car
has even tested,
scoring 99 out of 100 possible points
, but that doesn’t mean that Tesla’s first “clean slate” automobile is free from problems. Over the course of 15,743 miles of ownership,
reported that it encountered a number of small problems with the vehicle, but nothing too alarming. And all of the issues with the vehicle were fixed under warranty.
, however, weren’t as fortunate.
long-term test vehicle -- albeit a pre-production model -- had its drive unit (electric motor, inverter, gearbox) replaced three times over the course of 30,000 miles in addition to a laundry list of other problems. Over the course of its long-term test of a Model S P85+,
also had a drive unit replaced under warranty.
Some owners on the
official Tesla Motors forum
faired even worse. “I’m on my 5th drive train right at 12,000 miles,” reported user basf_audio. “Tesla is doing a buyback for me and I'm okay with that, even though everything that I've had serviced is fixed and working properly.”
Tesla Model S
investor call following its Q2 earnings report
, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk acknowledged the drive unit “problem,” but went on to detail that the issue wasn’t actually with the drive units in the vehicles that received replacements.
And we had one particular case where there was vibration, and it was due to -- it was due to the -- a cable detaching itself and touching the drive unit assembly and causing vibration to be transmitted to the body of the car…
If you replace the drive unit, you temporarily tuck the cable back and think the problem was solved and it was -- but then the cable would vibrate itself down and transmit the energy. So I mean that, you know, the cable thing takes us like -- it's nothing to fix it. It's like, virtually, it's like a $3 cable tied to solve it.
With respect to the
car needing three drive unit replacements, Musk goes on, stating:
The service team was ultra proactive with the Edmunds car. So they would -- they were doing their best to make Edmunds happy, and I think unfortunately that resulted in them changing things up, just on the off-chance something might go wrong.
So it appears that these expensive replacements could have been avoided with a simple cable tie, but until Tesla was able to diagnose the problem correctly, it went to the extreme by replacing the entire unit [reportedly $15,000 each].
Model S drive unit [bottom center]
In an effort to assure customers that it is committed to vehicle quality, and that it stands behind robustness of its EV platform, Musk announced late last week that Tesla is extending the powertrain warranty of the 85 kWh Model S to 8 years and unlimited miles (which now matches the warranty on the battery). The warranty extension is retroactive to every Model S sedan ever built.
Building on his belief that EVs are superior to gasoline/diesel-powered vehicles, Musk goes on to state in a blog post:
In hindsight, this should have been our policy from the beginning of the Model S program. If we truly believe that electric motors are fundamentally more reliable than gasoline engines, with far fewer moving parts and no oily residue or combustion byproducts to gum up the works, then our warranty policy should reflect that.
To investors in Tesla, I must acknowledge that this will have a moderately negative effect on Tesla earnings in the short term, as our warranty reserves will necessarily have to increase above current levels. This is amplified by the fact that we are doing so retroactively, not just for new customers. However, by doing the right thing for Tesla vehicle owners at this early stage of our company, I am confident that it will work out well in the long term.
Elon Musk and the Tesla crew are currently
gearing up for production of the Model X crossover
which will offer additional passenger/cargo space, all-wheel-drive (via dual drive units), and innovative “Falcon” doors. The
entry-level Model III will make its first public appearance in 2016
, with deliveries starting in 2017.
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