With nearly 500,000 plug-in electric vehicles now sold, Tesla has more such vehicles on the road in the United States than Chevrolet and Nissan combined.
That means collision repairers, particularly those in key Tesla markets – like California, Texas, Florida, New York, New Jersey and Illinois – are likely to see one roll into their shops for repairs.
Or will they?
Tesla already operates more than a dozen of its own body shops, and the automaker has said it will more than double that in the coming months.
“Why are we doing this? From our perspective, we need to create more capacity to repair our vehicles,” said Alex Tsetsenekos, a former executive at Liberty Mutual who Tesla hired last year to lead its effort to offer a better insurance option for owners of the company’s vehicles.
Operating its own shops, he said, is part of the company’s effort to lower the cost of ownership – including insurance – for Tesla drivers.
“We’re seeing that we can be anywhere from 20 percent to 30 percent lower in repair costs than your standard repair shop,” Tsetsenekos said. “So we’re happy to take that [repair] volume so we can drive down that cost, affecting the consumer in terms of their [insurance] rates.”
Reducing cycle time with the added capacity also gets its customers back in their cars more quickly, he said.
“They bought a Tesla and want to drive a Tesla,” Tsetsenekos said. “They don’t want to drive an Enterprise car for four weeks. We also see demand from consumers who say, ‘Look, would you just fix it? You made it. You fix it.’ So we took that to heart.”
In addition to opening its own shops, Tesla also hopes to add to its current network of about 500 Tesla-certified independent shops (which includes more than 100 in California alone). Tsetsenekos said the automaker realizes it needs to do more to help those shops get Tesla vehicles back on the road both faster and correctly.