2016 Tesla Model X: A Tale of Two Service Centers
by Michael Massey, Vehicle Testing Assistant
Mike Schmidt, senior manager of vehicle testing, and I were in the Edmunds garage discussing a "replace charge port" message on our long-term 2016 Tesla Model X. The port door would operate properly after multiple attempts, but not always on the first try. Our Model X was charging as we walked up to it, so I reached out to unplug it and found the cord alarmingly hot to the touch. That was the final straw; something was clearly wrong. With that in mind, I headed to our nearest Tesla service center.
Upon exiting the car, I was greeted with a smile and friendly hello from a porter at the West Los Angeles Tesla service center. I met with an adviser, listed our issues and emphasized our dire charging cable situation. I even expressed concern that I feared the cable might cause a fire. She acted empathetic and receptive to my concerns. Then she told me, "Without an appointment the best I can do is schedule you for service two weeks from now. We are just too busy."
In reaction to the now-defeated look on my face, she added, "The hot cable could be due to a charging station fault." It was a fair point that we had considered. Since the charging station in our garage was Tesla-branded, I asked if the dealer offered a service to troubleshoot it. She said, "I recommend that you hire an electrician."
Further efforts here seemed futile. That was until my adviser asked the concierge to check a neighboring Tesla store for availability. "We can deliver your car to the other location and call Uber to take you where you need to go," she offered. But I declined, wanting to drive there myself. With one more parting apology, she sent me on my way.
As before, I was immediately greeted by a porter at the other location, which is 8 miles south in Westchester. "The service center is on lunch from 12-1 p.m., but I will try to find someone to help you." It was about 12:30 p.m., and despite my frustration so far, I didn't mind waiting. Moments later the porter was back at the Model X, checking it in.
Enter Mr. Karim Khan. Normally, I wouldn't call out an adviser by name but this is a necessary mention. Karim greeted me with a warm smile and apologized for the delay while the shop was on break. He noted my concerns, located the shop foreman and sent him with me on a ride-along to reproduce the issues we experienced. In minutes my expectations swung from a 30-minute wait to driving in the car with the foreman.
The items on our checklist were as follows:
1. Check charge port door warning
2. Passenger-side falcon door makes a rubbing sound
3. Steering wheel makes groaning noise when turning
Back at the shop, I asked Karim about our charging station options. "I will schedule a ranger out to take a look," he offered. We learned that rangers are Tesla-employed electricians who handle remote inspections for customers. Karim told me to text or call him with questions and assured me he would be in touch with updates as soon as possible. I left in an Uber with a pretty good feeling about the whole experience. I even received a call from Karim later that day confirming our charging station was still under warranty.
The ranger showed up on time and changed out the cable and fuses in about 25 minutes. Once he was done, I signed a no-charge work order. He also gave me his cellphone number and insisted that I call him immediately if there were any issues with the wall charger and he would come back.
Karim texted me again the day the ranger was at our office. He updated me on the car's progress and he asked how the ranger visit went. Every communication with Karim made me feel like I was his only customer and I was never without pertinent information about our vehicle. I trusted things were getting done.
When I returned to the service center to pick up the vehicle, we went over the list of items that were resolved. Some were even fixed without us mentioning them:
1. Replaced front door latches
2. Replaced charge port door
3. Lubricated and separated trim pieces for both falcon doors to eliminate rubbing sound
4. Cleaned and lubricated mating points of bash plate, which caused the steering wheel groaning sound
5. Full courtesy inspection, which included firmware updates
I drove the Tesla back to our offices feeling great about the three-day turnaround time, though it was longer than expected. As I pulled into the garage and maneuvered the Model X into its space next to the charge cable, the steering wheel groaned. I checked before leaving Tesla and it wasn't there, but here it was again. I called Karim and we decided to take it back the next morning.
Upon arriving at Tesla, I was met with a barrage of apologies and promises to immediately fix the issue. The technician who did the majority of the work on our vehicle even came out and apologized. There seemed to be genuine empathy for me having to make a return trip.
This experience painted a great picture of the differences between the two service centers. Even though I was disappointed by the West L.A. store, I see this as less of a negative experience there and more a highlight of the Westchester location. I can't imagine any service adviser wants to tell a customer the dealer won't get to his or her vehicle for two weeks. But in this case it worked to our advantage. Our car and charging station were fixed. And we found an adviser in Karim that we'll go to from here on out.
Michael Massey, vehicle testing assistant @ 16,450 miles