By | April 24, 2023
Why Tesla is the only manufacturer to do without vehicle maintenance

The electric car requires far fewer visits to the workshop for maintenance than thermal cars. However, many manufacturers still impose it at a regular rate, while Tesla does without it. For what ?

Tesla has not only revolutionized the process of buying a car, the manufacturer has also dynamited the concept of maintenance. In a tweet posted on April 24, 2023, Tesla recalls that the maintenance of its cars is reduced to a minimum. If the vehicle needs troubleshooting, a good part of the process can be done from the application and without having to go to the dealership. Faced with this Tesla strategy, the other manufacturers seem completely overwhelmed in always requiring a regular visit to the workshop. Who, from Tesla or other manufacturers, has the fairest vision? Although the answer may seem obvious, it is not so obvious.

Tesla is one step ahead of its competitors in how vehicle issues are diagnosed and addressed remotely. But, without this technological advantage, the brand would not have been able to conquer the world anyway as it did. However, his system is not flawless.

Tesla and its minimal maintenance

Tesla does not impose an overhaul according to an annual schedule or a set mileage. Moreover, some of the maintenance provided by the brand can be done by the owners themselves, without being mechanics at heart. THE intervention recommendations Tesla are:

  • Changing the cabin filter after 2 years of use of a Tesla, or even every 3 years for the new Model S and X,
  • Brake fluid check every 2 years
  • Tire rotation and balancing every 10,000 km,
  • Change the HEPA filter every 3 years, if the model is equipped with it,
  • Air conditioning maintenance every 2 to 6 years depending on the model,
  • Cleaning and lubrication of all brake calipers every 12 months or 20,000 km.

This is a game-changer compared to thermal cars, which must be oiled regularly. There are no oil changes, belts, gearboxes or fuel filters to replace here. Some will say that it is also possible to drain a thermal model yourself, this still requires some technical knowledge and above all a little equipment. This remains a special case.

If you think updating an iPhone is a hassle, wait until you update a Tesla.  I have rarely seen such an unstable network connection.  // Source: Numerama
One of many updates received by cars to fix bugs. // Source: Numerama

An electric vehicle, regardless of brand, will have far fewer mechanical repairs. But why do other electric car manufacturers still force people to go to the workshop?

The key to Tesla: its on-board diagnostic tools and OTA updates

If more and more manufacturers are integrating remote updates (OTA or “over the air”), few other brands are as advanced as Tesla on how the car is configurable without physical intervention. Some of the problems related to vehicle electronics can be resolved remotely by Tesla teams. The diagnostic data integrated into the models is certainly among the most advanced in the automotive industry. This is a direct saving for the manufacturer in terms of payroll, but also for the owner of a Tesla who does not have to pay for each visit to the workshop.

Volkswagen OTA update // Source: Volkswagen
OTA update from Volkswagen. // Source: Volkswagen

However, “maintenance-free” does not mean failure-free. What manufacturers sometimes treat as a preventive measure during a visit to the workshop on other models, Tesla drivers are required to manage it themselves when the problem occurs. And, in these situations, the partially dehumanized management of the repair request and the distance with the service center can turn into a headache for some customers.

Regular vehicle safety checks

When we question the various manufacturers, who maintain regular visits to the workshop for electric cars, they all answer that this is for the safety of the vehicle.

The visit to the workshop involves few changes of wearing parts, but allows the manufacturer to check the good health of the vehicle: condition of the chassis, the bodywork, the tires, the steering and the suspension. It is also an opportunity for the brand to check the integrity of the battery and its proper functioning.

Many manufacturers even require an appointment after one year. This is the case for a large number of generalist manufacturers, including the brands of the Stellantis group (Peugeot, Citroën, DS, Fiat, etc.) or Renault. This first meeting in the workshop is less intended to check the electric vehicle than to take stock with the driver to find out if any difficulties have been encountered.

These visits to the workshop are 20 to 35% cheaper than for thermal vehicles, but they remain a significant cost to insure and are time-consuming.

A way to keep the network of dealerships

With fewer breakdowns and visits to the workshop, the business model of concessions is in a particularly summary balance with the emergence of electric vehicles. The sales bring in less and less. Where the workshop has so far made it possible to find a form of profitability over the long term, this advantage partially disappears with the electric.

Workshop of a Renault dealership // Source: Renault
Workshop of a Renault dealership. // Source: Renault

By imposing a mandatory overhaul schedule, incumbent manufacturers safeguard a crucial source of revenue. To be sure that customers do not turn away from it, the vehicle and battery warranty conditions imply timely maintenance in the network according to the established schedule. Brands seek to keep their customers captive in this way for as long as possible. This is particularly the case with the Koreans at Kia who, in order to have the famous 7-year guarantee, require maintenance at the dealership. They are far from the only ones to operate like this. The longer the warranty period, the more it makes the customer dependent on his dealer.

Keeping a maintenance schedule to make sure electric vehicles work well and safely is a good idea. This also makes it possible to maintain a human link with the customer, with its advantages and its defects according to the concessions. There is certainly a compromise to be found between the “maintenance-free” way of Tesla, which leaves the customer to fend for himself to manage his vehicle over time, and the too regular and expensive appointments of traditional manufacturers.

Apart from young brands which are launching without having a network of dealers, few manufacturers seek to renew this vehicle monitoring. However, it seems possible to consider replacing the large local concessions with smaller points of sale. They could be combined with mobile breakdown services, such as the Tesla Rangerand this may be one of the solutions for the future.

The electric automobile is a booming sector, but you still need the keys to understand it. Subscribe to Watt Else, Numerama’s free newsletter, guaranteed 100% without jargon on the mobility of tomorrow.

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