Tesla is facing a new lawsuit instigated by an owner who is attempting to have Tesla give up its quasi-monopoly on repairing its vehicles.
Most people agree that Tesla bypassing the franchise car dealer model and going direct to consumers is an asset for the company.
Tesla is removing the intermediary between the automaker and the consumer for both selling and servicing its vehicles.
However, there’s a downside for the consumer, which is that Tesla has almost complete control over repairing and servicing its vehicles.
Now Tesla doesn’t technically have a full monopoly on Tesla vehicle repair. I am, for instance, getting my Tesla vehicles serviced by a third-party service center, Simon André Voitures Electriques in Trois-Rivières.
But it’s not easy since the few shops that went into the complicated and expensive process to support Tesla vehicles still rely on Tesla to get parts.
In practice, most Tesla owners don’t have access to repair from anyone other than the automaker itself unless they are located in the few markets where they are third-party shops that can service and repair Tesla vehicles.
Now a Tesla owner in California has filed an antitrust lawsuit against the automaker because of the lack of access to repair (via Bloomberg):
The antitrust class action was filed Tuesday in San Francisco federal court on behalf of Virginia M. Lambrix, who lives in Sonoma County and owns a Tesla Model S. She says owners of traditional combustion engine cars have multiple options for maintenance and repairs, or do the work themselves. Those repairs can rely on parts from the original manufacturer or parts made by other companies, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit claims that Tesla is actively working to limit access to repairs, which led Tesla owners “to suffer lengthy delays in repairing or maintaining their electric vehicles, only to pay supracompetitive prices for those parts and repairs once they are finally provided.”
Again, I want to be fair here and make it clear that there are other options than Tesla in some markets. But having talked to those people, it hasn’t been easy to set up support for Tesla vehicles, and Tesla is not always easy to work with when it comes to getting parts and diagnostic capability.
However, it has apparently been getting better over the last year or so.
I don’t know exactly what this lawsuit can accomplish, but if anything, it is bringing some attention to the issue.
I still firmly believe that Tesla’s direct service approach is the way to go, but I also think that there’s room to create some competition and keep the company in check.