From an overall perspective, Tesla has done a lot of amazing things for the auto world and the environment. They made electric cars cool and have gotten the ball rolling on a new age of driving, no one can take that away.
That being said, there are reports that Tesla some of Tesla’s vehicles sold have been defective or qualify under various states lemon laws. It has been our experience that Tesla can be difficult when dealing with lemon vehicles and lemon law cases. There are some reports which even accuse Tesla of knowingly selling defective vehicles.
If you choose to buy a Tesla, hopefully, everything works out perfectly and there are no defective parts. However, as with any defective product, should your vehicle turn out to be a “lemon,” you need to be fully prepared proving your case and knowing what may lie ahead.
Here are several common threads we’ve seen in lemon law cases with Tesla and what you need to be aware of.
They’ll Likely Try to Push the Blame on You
Perhaps the most prominent pattern we’ve seen with Tesla and lemon law is they do not abide by the common business philosophy that “the customer is always right.” In fact, they bring the opposite stance to the extreme; even going as far as publically ridiculing buyers of defective Tesla models.
Back in 2014, a Tesla buyer in Wisconsin filed a lemon law case against Tesla for a number of issues. The vehicle had been out of commission for repairs for a total of 66 days, which would have qualified it as a lemon. In response, Tesla released a blog post on their company website essentially accusing the customer and the lemon lawyer of tampering with the vehicle and causing several of the noted defects. Moreover, the Tesla fan base continued to ridicule both the customer and lawyer within online communities over the issue.
Ultimately, the customer won the case and received a full buyback plus attorney fees – but not before he was publically dragged through the mud.
You Might Get Blacklisted
This is a very real possibility we have dealt with first-hand. One of my clients purchased a brand new Tesla Model 3. Within the first six months of owning the vehicle, the car spent more time in the shop than in his possession. It was very clear that it wasn’t assembled correctly at the factory, as it had a number of substantial defects to the body and design. These included:
- Incorrect hood fitment issues;
- Rear hatch misalignment;
- Driver’s side door belt moldings were twisting;
- Defective seat trim;
- Faulty A-pillar fitment;
- Scratches on dashboard;
- Improper fitment of seats;
- Misalignment of driver and passenger doors;
- Wrinkles in the steering wheel;
- Mismatching and/or blemishing;
- Chipping and/or cracking in the panoramic roof glass.
Even with this list of defects, my client kept faith in Tesla and requested a replacement Model 3, as opposed to a buyback. In the process of getting a replacement, my client gave Tesla a $3,500 deposit, which they held onto for months.
After a long waiting period, Tesla decided they were going to cancel my client’s order simply because the first one was a lemon. This was in direct response to my client asserting his rights to a replacement or buyback under California lemon law. To make matters worse, Tesla threatened to blacklist him from buying any Tesla vehicle in the future.
Here is a snippet of the email Tesla sent to my client:
“Dear (Client name),
Our local Sales and Delivery Team was instructed by Tesla’s Legal Team, that based on pending litigation, that we should not proceed with the vehicle you had on order, that your deposit should be refunded, and that at this time, you were not eligible to place an order for a vehicle with Tesla.”
Essentially, since my client had filed a lemon law claim, Tesla decided that he was no longer a person they wished to sell cars to.
This is not ethical business practice.
Based on our experience and foregoing facts of this case, we strongly recommend that people buy vehicles from companies that do not take this approach with their customer base.
Common Concerns with Tesla Models
Tesla models have certainly shown a fair number of common issues, leaving many customers with buyer’s remorse.
The Model 3 arguably has the most notorious reputation for faulty parts. For a vehicle that is entirely battery powered, the electronic makeup tends to be the source of the most common defects. Other reports point to shoddy construction overall.
The touchscreen “infotainment” system is used to control nearly every aspect of the car’s functionality. Unfortunately, this vital component has had many reports of faultiness. According to Edmunds.com, common issues with the screen include:
- Defective navigation screen – unintended/uncontrollable zooming, scrolling, pinching, pixelating, etc.;
- Uncontrollable volume on audio system;
- Faulty backup camera;
- Screen randomly goes blank;
- Icons on screen flicker.
In terms of the construction, many of the common findings relate to what we found in our client’s situation. Some of the big ones included misaligned fittings, hood sagging below the fenders, and in some cases, the bumper fell off entirely.
In other instances, people have reported that the car will not unlock or even drive – as the vehicle would not recognize the keycard. Additionally, some found that the car wouldn’t shift into drive or reverse.
The Model S is also no stranger to defects. Certain experiences have indicated there are issues with the suspension. This complaint even caught the attention of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In one situation, a customer had reported this issue in his 2013 Model S, of which Tesla claimed was normal wear and tear. Tesla eventually offered to cover half of the repair cost, but only if the customer signed a non-disclosure agreement.
The auto industry is moving towards electric and away from fossil fuels, and Tesla is, in many ways, pioneering the effort. Now, with such a big shift, there is bound to be growing pains. The technology is still very new and has a lot of refinement in order – something that is certainly going to put the manufacturer at risk of producing lemons.
The difference is how the automaker handles it. In my opinion, I believe this is a big shortcoming of Tesla. Behind all the glamor and glitz, there is definitely a great deal of risk attached to buying one of these cars – at least right now.
If you are contemplating buying a Tesla, keep in mind the brand’s track record in dealing with lemon law.
Author Bio: Brian K. Cline is the founding partner at Cline APC, A California Lemon Law Legal Group. His firm represents clients throughout California. Their Los Angeles lemon law lawyers aggressively and ethically force vehicle manufacturers to buy back defective and dangerous vehicles.