From Toyota to Tesla back to Toyota

Almost 4 years ago, I became the proud owner of a 2013 Tesla Model S (P06092). I loved the car so much and I was so passionate about the company, that I decided to share my experience in this blog. When I bought the car, I suspected that I would have some problems.  I read a lot about the company and I knew they were focused on quality, but at the same time, it was a relatively new company, the Model S was their first mass produced car, first generation, new suppliers, new technologies: the perfect recipe for problems!

I live in Gatineau and the closest service center is in Montréal (+200km away).  I decided to pay extra for the ranger service.  That was a fantastic idea!  I had many problems with the car while it was under warranty and every time, the ranger service took good care of my Tesla.  They really exceeded my expectations during that period. Unfortunately, the number of problems I had with the car also exceeded my expectations by a strong margin. What can possibly drive such a passionate individual like me, to exchange his Model S for a Toyota Corolla 2017!?

Here is my reality check list:

Expectations Reality
Electric cars have less parts than gasoline car so they are less likely to break. Electric cars do have less parts but that does not mean the parts will be reliable.

In 3 years I had:

  • 2 drive trains replaced,
  • 2 battery packs replaced (Had to pull away 3 times with the error message: “The car is shutting down, please pull away safely”),
  • brake leaking problems (2 times),
  • suspension problems,
  • door handles stopped working,
  • heating system replaced,
  • 2 headlights replaced.
Maintenance cost is low I bought more tires for my Tesla in 3 years than other cars in 10 years.  A lot of 2012, 2013 model S owner are paying high end cost to keep it running.
I planned on keeping this car for at least 10 years, like I did with my previous cars. I exchanged it for a Corolla 2017 this year because of the number of problems with my Tesla, the lack of service center in Ottawa, the ranger service no longer available and the future maintenance cost.

I hesitated a lot before exchanging my Model S because I really enjoyed the full user experience (Good job UX Team). One option was to keep the Model S until I got the Model 3. Unfortunately, because of my reality check list I decided that it was just time to let go.

When my heating system broke down, Tesla replaced it (Good will = replace for free) even if my warranty was over. I really appreciated this, especially after knowing that the heater itself cost $3000, excluding labor. When I strongly reacted to that price, the guys at the service center replied: “What do you expect? You bought a luxury car, maintenance is more expensive”.

Back in 2013, I did not buy a luxury car, I paid for research and development for a long distance driving electric vehicle.

  1. I am not in for a luxury car, electric or not, I usually put my money elsewhere.  This was a one time deal… Let’s do this crazy thing once in my life!
  2. I am not a car guy. I would never have paid this much money for any other car.
  3. I suspect that the Model 3 will be expensive to maintain like an Audi or a BMW.
  4. The Model 3 first iteration are more likely to have issues similar to the first iteration of the Model S and Model X because:
    1. They re-designed the battery pack.
    2. They re-designed the drivetrain from scratch.
    3. Usually, version 1.0 of hardware is more likely to have problems.

I am a strong believer in the Tesla mission, but I did my share and will let others enjoy the fun and potential problems with the first iteration of the Model 3. Unless someone has the arguments to convince me otherwise, I’ll get my deposit back.

screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-8-05-39-pm

Now, I am a very happy owner of a Corolla 2017 with loads of security features, led lights, heated seats and heated steering wheel for a very reasonable price. I needed a reliable car after the Model S experience. Believe it or not, I was (sadly) happy to go back to the gas station every 2 weeks to fill up a gas car that just works.

Did you know that Toyota is finally getting serious about electric cars? Read this. They have a dedicated team with a target date of 2020.  I doubt they will meet this dead line if they only really started this year. If my Corolla 2017 is as reliable as my previous Corolla, I should be able to buy a reasonably priced, reliable, fully electric Toyota in 10 years from now.

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A stranger knocked on our door…

This event was too unbelievable, I had to share it. This evening a stranger knocked on our door:

“Sorry to bother you, but I saw your Tesla and was wondering if you were satisfied with the vehicle”.

She was interested in reserving a Model 3. I said I was very satisfied and will definitely put down the 1000$ on March 31st to get another one.  

I warned her that 35k might not include the biggest battery pack.

Stranger: “I do not need the biggest battery, I want to use it for city driving.”

Well I said, for city driving, you could buy a Nissan Leaf today… Here is the punch:  

Stranger: “A Nissan what? I have never heard of it”

A Nissan Leaf I said, like a leaf from a tree.

Stranger: “I have a Toyota Rav 4 and a Honda Civic, I am looking for a good reliable car”

She is probably one of the many individuals in the same situation that will reserve a Model 3!

Nissan, a well established car company. The first company that produced a mass market electric car. It is hard to believe that she did not know about the electric model!  She knew about Tesla, a company that was not even on the media map 4 years ago.

With the best product, word of mouth and social media you can go far, very far.

Once again, you nailed it. All your hard work is getting recognized by the whole planet, good job Tesla!

Close your eyes and jump!

When I saw the delivery of the Model X video, it reminded me of the first delivery of the Model S. This was the decisive point for me. Tesla built a factory with advanced robots capable of assembling the Model S in series. I was convinced that they would succeed and decided to reserve one. That was more than 3 years ago. Time really flies.

Yes, I was an early adopter and some people were surprised that I took the plunge. I am more of a conservative type but have realized over time that when a bunch of passionate people work together, they can do miracles. Software people building a car? Why not!

Buying an expensive car from a non-established, but promising company was a risky move at the time. Things could have turned really bad, but the company managed to fix every problems.  From wrong assumptions, false reports, etc. They quickly fixed every problem as they appeared.

Do I regret my purchase after all this time? Absolutely not. I still love the car and any glitches/problems were fixed quickly and in a professional matter. Now that Tesla is a well established world wide company. What is preventing you for jumping?

Jump

I used this cool picture from google, I hope the people on the picture do not mind. If you recognize yourself, please drop me a note.

Tech talk: Good Charging Habits Decrease Range!

Are your a Tesla Model S owner that experienced a range decrease greater than the average customer?  I have been charging my car between 60% and 80% on a daily basis to preserve my expensive battery pack. This resulted in decreased range estimation.

(One picture is in miles, the other in kilometres, I used to be able to range charge @ 435km and I am now down to 389km)

rangeChargeMilesrangeChargeKM

According to Jerome Guillen (Tesla VP, WW sales and service) and Tesla engineers, it is due to an inaccuracy of the range estimation algorithm:

Our engineers apologize for the inaccuracy of the existing range estimation algorithm. Right now, they are beta testing improvements intended to resolve these issues, regardless of how your car is charged. If you modify your daily charging behavior to charge at the top end of the “daily” range, you should see your fully charged range increase over time. Note, this is an estimation problem that can take weeks, if not months, to correct, depending on your driving behavior.

This might also explain my last supercharging session. I waited 2 hours and never got the “Charge completed” message. I kept on getting the “Re-calculating” message.

Following Jerome’s recommendation, I started charging at 90%.  To be continued…

On another note, how many car companies apologize? Tesla continues to amaze me. Every company faces challenges. It is how they handle and fix problems that makes this car company very different. This is one of the many reasons for their success.

A week without my Model S

After spending a week without my Model S, I found I missed the following features: (putting aside the fact that it is quiet, fast and has great handling)

  • I listen to Slacker radio often. (Signal quality is way better than the Sirius radio on the Ford fusion loaner)
  • Twice a day I plan my route to avoid traffic, very convenient with an overview of the Ottawa city on the 17 inch screen.
  • I use the backup camera in traffic to cover the famous dead angles.
  • I was not getting the regular thumbs up from the enthusiasts 🙂

I was also very surprised to notice how much we use the break pedals with a regular gas car. The Model S one pedal driving is very efficient and convenient.

The service centre kept the car for a week because they ended up replacing the whole drive train. The service centres are not allowed to open the drive train nor the battery pack. If either one needs special attention, they replace it. Once the work was completed, they returned the car home on a flat bed trailer. Isn’t that great?

Back at the pump

backAtThePump

I left my car at the service centre in Montréal, Québec during a business trip. The service was booked a week earlier.

Surprise #1: No Model S loaner for me available. Surprise #2, No vehicle loaner available at all! They called me a taxi.

Are they too busy? Was it a lack of planning? I had a strange feeling, the lady looked at the manager with an unusual look. The next day, someone brought me a Ford Fusion. (Really?)

I was contacted later telling me the strange high pitch sound coming from the drive train needed attention/help from the Tesla engineers. That meant coming back to Ottawa without my Model S.

Because they brought me an half full tank car, I had to stop at the pump on my way to Gatineau. Ford fusion seats are way too soft for long drives, my back is soar! 🙂

I called Tesla in California to describe the experience. To be continued.

A lot of people in California are working hard to make everything perfect.  It’s unfortunate that the Montreal service centre is not following the same standards of excellence. Although, Kathy at the front desk, was very professional.