Tesla created secret team to suppress thousands of driving range complaints

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A REUTERS SPECIAL REPORT

About a decade ago, Tesla rigged the dashboard readouts in its electric cars to provide “rosy” projections of how far owners can drive before needing to recharge, a source told Reuters. The automaker last year became so inundated with driving-range complaints that it created a special team to cancel owners’ service appointments.

In March, Alexandre Ponsin set out on a family road trip from Colorado to California in his newly purchased Tesla, a used 2021 Model 3. He expected to get something close to the electric sport sedan’s advertised driving range: 353 miles on a fully charged battery.

He soon realized he was sometimes getting less than half that much range, particularly in cold weather – such severe underperformance that he was convinced the car had a serious defect.

“We’re looking at the range, and you literally see the number decrease in front of your eyes,” he said of his dashboard range meter.


Ponsin contacted Tesla and booked a service appointment in California. He later received two text messages, telling him that “remote diagnostics” had determined his battery was fine, and then: “We would like to cancel your visit.”

What Ponsin didn’t know was that Tesla employees had been instructed to thwart any customers complaining about poor driving range from bringing their vehicles in for service. Last summer, the company quietly created a “Diversion Team” in Las Vegas to cancel as many range-related appointments as possible.

The Austin, Texas-based electric carmaker deployed the team because its service centers were inundated with appointments from owners who had expected better performance based on the company’s advertised estimates and the projections displayed by the in-dash range meters of the cars themselves, according to several people familiar with the matter.