Drawing the line with Tesla
I’m sure Tesla is doing important work. I’m also sure that it cannot be permitted to do whatever it feels like doing simply because the overall goals it is attempting to accomplish are important.
On the afternoon of 12/16/19, Tesla’s battery management system (BMS) deactivated my 2012 Tesla Model S P85 while I was traveling 70–72 mph down a freeway, despite that I had 3% charge remaining on the display and was within half a mile from the Erwin Supercharger location. This was the second time the vehicle’s software had done such a thing, and the situation is not merely alarming to an operator, but also extremely dangerous.
Tesla’s BMS, acting to preserve the warrantied asset of the vehicle’s main traction battery, essentially unplugged my vehicle’s (non-warrantied) DC to DC converter, destroying that electronic part in much the same way as unplugging a desktop computer from a wall outlet abruptly may destroy it.
As a consequence, I lost not merely the proceeds of a $179 job I was in the process of doing, but also incurred approximately $500 in aggregate towing charges (91 miles to the Tesla service center in Henrietta, New York), 8.5 hours in lost time, and ultimately loss of the use of my vehicle for well over a month.
Tesla personnel misled me with respect to the diagnosis of the problem and also performed repairs on my car without my authorization.
On the evening of 12/18/19, after he conducted a preliminary diagnosis, service rep JW told me by phone that the DC to DC converter would cost “$1600, brand new.” I Googled a replacement for the part and found one almost instantly for $600, and asked JW whether I could use that part instead. He replied that he would have to check with the service manager, JL, despite that he knew or had reason to know that Tesla service policy would not allow it. I told him I would write up my concerns and submit them as soon as I could.
What I didn’t know at the time was that JW had already replaced the DC to DC converter — and that not only had he done so, but that he’d done so with a refurbished part, not the “brand new” one he claimed Tesla would use. This is reflected in the later invoice I was presented, which shows a refurbished part rather than a new one priced at $1600.
[Fair market value for a refurbished part is significantly less than for a new part. In point of fact, a refurbished part including one year warranty is available from an alternate parts supplier less than 600 miles from Rochester for $699, and “repair and return” services are available for the part for just $300. This represents fraudulent misrepresentation and blatant price gouging on the part of Tesla service — even if JW had not told me that the part he was required to use was brand new at $1600 rather than refurbished.]
My car was already functional as of JW’s 12/18/19 phone call. That call was apparently made for the purpose of soliciting the owner’s permission for doing the repair after the repair had already been done.
Explicitly detailing my concerns took until 1/3/20. I heard no word whatsoever from Tesla in the interim, despite that JW was ostensibly awaiting a simple yes or no answer from service manager JL regarding whether repairs could be done with a used part versus the “brand new” one he quoted at $1600.
After I submitted my concerns (including the simple deduction that Tesla’s battery management system was in all likelihood ultimately responsible for the destruction of my DC to DC converter) Tesla personnel took the unprecedented step of behaving as though they had had authorization to perform the repairs, and JW called me on Monday afternoon to tell me my car was fixed.
My car had been functional since 12/18/19. The question of why it broke down in the first place still remained, and Tesla personnel acted in a fashion to deliberately obfuscate the root cause of the breakdown. Clearly this was done to avoid financial accountability for the situation, as well as to prevent the larger product liability concern from being addressed.
I was understandably perplexed as to why my car would be fixed without my authorization when I would never authorize repairs to be done on it without first being certain I could afford to have them done.
I followed up with JL almost immediately.
At this point, I was still earnestly trying to avoid causing Tesla a very public ‘black eye.’ I already knew that a modification to the BMS code had been made apparently in a simple attempt to avoid low state of charge (SOC) battery fires which had recently surfaced. BMS code added in approximately the fall of 2019 apparently seeks to establish what amounts to a software firewall, to prevent excessive discharge of the main system battery which might result in general system failure, or — in rare cases — a battery fire.
The code implemented appears to be a crude algorithm which excludes any formal notification of the operator. i.e. it’s unpredictable, and acts without warning. When the vehicle’s battery is depleted below a certain level, and one or more other conditions are met, the BMS acts to disconnect the main system battery from further sources of current draw. The two primary sources are the accelerator and the DC to DC converter.
This was the cause-in-fact action which resulted in the destruction of the DC to DC converter of my car. Multiple later actions taken by the company to obfuscate this fact and compel the owner to pay for repairs which were not directly attributable to his own actions, but rather the company’s, constitute multiple cases of fraud.
We live in a world in which McDonald’s coffee is now required to bear a warning label. It is wholly inexcusable for Tesla to implement code which could — and did — risk both serious operator injury or death and serious financial repercussions without any warning whatsoever.
Worse, Tesla personnel clearly and obviously acted to cover this information up, Tesla advocates most specifically including Bonnie Norman and David Hughes attempted to help them do it, and Tesla Managing Counsel Ryan C. McCarthy contributed to these efforts remotely from Fremont, California in a baldfaced attempt to defraud a dedicated customer.
This is the textbook definition of Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud.
I needn’t wait for “other customers to report the same or similar series of events” in order to take action on this, and I have no intention of doing so.
I needn’t respect “what the company’s expressed goals are” in preference to my own financial interests and the preservation of my reputation — to say nothing of fair play. I’m thoroughly disgusted by the fair weather friends who I’ve encountered along the way — including you, Rick — who will never be able to cogently argue that I’m not amply capable of telling the truth, or that I haven’t put the lion’s share of all my time, effort, and money into support of the electrification process.
In short, if I were ever going to “let up” or forgive the company for the inexcusable and criminal actions it took in this case, it would have invariably had to happen long before now, and perhaps through some explicit actions taken on the part of such advocates who have the ear of the company — including each of you, Third Row Tesla Podcast — but who just plain don’t show up when they’re called to less-than-glamorous duty.
He (or she) who looks but does not see is guilty of negligence. And that means each and every one of you.
Tesla has now been amply notified of this, and will be notified in triplicate via certified mail, return receipt requested later in the week.