Tesla has reportedly established a covert “Redirection Division” with the primary task of swiftly diverting and canceling numerous appointments related to range-related problems.
According to an investigation by Reuters, this team was responsible for closing hundreds of cases each week, as numerous Tesla owners were expressing their frustration about the range performance of their cars.
Although these vehicles were functioning correctly, they failed to meet Tesla’s inflated and exaggerated driving range estimates.
This previously undisclosed division was formed in response to the overwhelming number of appointments from disgruntled drivers who were unable to cover the distances they believed their cars could.
The team members’ performance was closely monitored, and they were incentivized by being informed that every closed case saved the company approximately $1,000. In an intriguing resemblance to a scene from “The Wolf of Wall Street,” some members of the Redirection Division would celebrate their successful cancellation of appointments by playfully striking a metal xylophone after muting their phones.
This accomplishment was met with applause in the Tesla offices, as reported by Reuters.
It is worth noting that Gizmodo was unable to independently verify Reuters’ findings, and Tesla did not respond to their request for comment on the matter.
The Diversion Team prioritized speed in handling the cases it received. Although the team is reportedly no longer active, it would allegedly receive up to 2,000 cases per week, some from the same customers.
The goal was to close approximately 750 of these cases weekly. To achieve this, team members were instructed to promptly call customers who had lodged complaints and aim to close the cases as swiftly as possible.
If an irate customer did not respond immediately to Tesla’s call, the team would close the case on the grounds of “unresponsiveness.” When a customer did answer, the team was directed to keep the call under five minutes. In certain instances, managers even advised advisors to stop remote diagnostics on batteries altogether.
According to an individual familiar with the team’s operations, “thousands of customers were told there is nothing wrong with their car,” indicating that the Diversion Team was efficient in its approach to handling complaints.
Tesla has a history of facing disputes over its ambitious range predictions. As early as 2021, an Edmunds report found that every model they tested fell short of their EPA range estimates, with the 2020 Model X Long Range often falling over 30 miles short.
Tesla contested these findings initially, but they were later largely replicated by Edmunds. More recently, Tesla faced a $2.2 million fine from South Korean regulators, who claimed that the company’s vehicles averaged only around half of their advertised range in cold weather conditions.
Despite CEO Elon Musk publicly defending the ranges of his vehicles, range anxiety remains a top concern for electric vehicle owners.
In a 2022 Forbes survey of 500 EV owners, over one-third (37%) reported that worries over range frequently caused them to rearrange their travel plans or cancel trips.
Reuters’ investigation revealed that Tesla implemented software to exaggerate range estimates to drivers approximately a decade ago.
Allegedly, Musk played a role in this directive, and an algorithm was devised to display inflated range estimates to drivers until the battery level dropped below 50%.
At that point, the range estimate would adjust rapidly to provide a more realistic indication. Additionally, Tesla includes an estimated 15-mile “safety buffer” in the range estimate when the battery shows empty to prevent users from getting stranded.
The recent report from Reuters comes at a time when Tesla is facing increased scrutiny from government and regulatory authorities concerning various alleged performance issues.
CNBC reported on an investigation by California’s attorney general’s office, focusing on potential safety concerns with Tesla’s Autopilot driver assist feature and complaints about false advertising.
This investigation coincides with a class-action lawsuit by California Tesla owners, centered around a phenomenon dubbed “phantom braking,” where vehicles equipped with Autopilot would suddenly apply the brakes.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is also involved in investigating hundreds of cases related to alleged phantom braking incidents.
Thus, it is currently a challenging period for Tesla’s legal team, as they navigate through these regulatory and legal challenges.