Tesla has consistently exaggerated the driving range of its electric vehicles, reportedly leading car owners to think something was broken when actual driving range was much lower than advertised. When these owners scheduled service appointments to fix the problem, Tesla canceled the appointments because there was no way to improve the actual distance Tesla cars could drive between charges, according to an investigation by Reuters.
In mid-2022, Tesla started routing range complaints to a "Diversion Team" that fielded up to 2,000 cases a week and "was expected to close about 750 cases a week," Reuters reported.
"Tesla years ago began exaggerating its vehicles' potential driving distance—by rigging their range-estimating software," the article published today said. "The company decided about a decade ago, for marketing purposes, to write algorithms for its range meter that would show drivers 'rosy' projections for the distance it could travel on a full battery, according to a person familiar with an early design of the software for its in-dash readouts."
Once the battery fell below 50 percent, "the algorithm would show drivers more realistic projections for their remaining driving range." The order to exaggerate car range allegedly came from the top, Reuters wrote:
The directive to present the optimistic range estimates came from Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk, this person said.
"Elon wanted to show good range numbers when fully charged," the person said, adding: "When you buy a car off the lot seeing 350-mile, 400-mile range, it makes you feel good."
“We would like to cancel your visit”
Reuters said it "could not determine whether Tesla still uses algorithms that boost in-dash range estimates," but reported that Tesla "last year became so inundated with driving-range complaints that it created a special team to cancel owners' service appointments." Reuters also noted that "automotive testers and regulators continue to flag the company for exaggerating the distance its vehicles can travel before their batteries run out."
Tesla Model 3 driver Alexandre Ponsin "was sometimes getting less than half" of his 2021 vehicle's advertised range of 353 miles, particularly in cold weather, leading him to believe the car had a serious defect, according to Reuters. He booked a service appointment a few months ago but 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.'"
The cancellation was in line with instructions Tesla employees had received "to thwart any customers complaining about poor driving range from bringing their vehicles in for service," according to Reuters. "Last summer, the company quietly created a 'Diversion Team' in Las Vegas to cancel as many range-related appointments as possible."
Diversion Team members reportedly "often closed hundreds of cases a week and staffers were tracked on their average number of diverted appointments per day." Managers reportedly told employees that each canceled appointment saved the company $1,000, while easing pressure on service centers with long waits for service appointments.
Managers allegedly told employees in late 2022 "to stop running remote diagnostic tests on the vehicles of owners who had reported range problems," speeding up the process of canceling cases. "Thousands of customers were told there is nothing wrong with their car" by advisers who had never run diagnostics, Reuters quoted a source as saying. Advisers offered tips to customers on how to increase their mileage by changing driving habits.
According to Reuters, supervisors also told employees to call a customer once and close the case as "unresponsive" if there was no answer. "When customers did respond, advisers were told to try to complete the call in no more than five minutes," Reuters wrote.