Tesla has been accused of several unethical business practices over the years. The latest, according to a new, extensively reported piece from Reuters, is that the electric vehicle company misled consumers about the battery range of its cars.
Not only that, but according to the report, Tesla also created an entire secret “Diversion Team” to thwart customers who complained about the issue.
“Range anxiety” — the fear that your electric vehicle could run out of battery in between charging stations, leaving you stranded — has been an issue plaguing electric vehicle manufacturers ever since EVs have been sold.
To combat this consumer fear, EV makers have managed to develop efficient and reliable batteries that can hold hundreds of miles worth of charge.
But Tesla apparently went one step further, advertising range estimates that were not based in reality, going as far as to rig the range-estimating software within its cars.
Per Reuters, “a person familiar with an early design of the software for its in-dash readouts” said that Tesla’s range meter would show “rosy” projections for how far a car could travel on a full battery. Then, once the battery fell to under 50% charged, the projection would switch to a realistic number so as to avoid actually leaving drivers stranded with an empty battery.
However, drivers who noticed the abrupt switch thought something was wrong with their cars and scheduled service appointments. That’s where the “Diversion Team” came in.
The team was reportedly tasked with identifying customers who had scheduled appointments based on the misleading range estimates. From there, they were meant to tell those customers there was nothing wrong with their cars and that they should cancel their appointments — without ever telling them what the actual issue had been.
The issue of Tesla’s range estimates being inaccurate has been reported previously — earlier this year, the South Korean government fined the EV maker $2.2 million for failing to tell customers about the shorter driving range of its cars in low temperatures, Reuters reported.
However, the extent of how intentionally Tesla misled its customers and then attempted to cover it up had not previously been known.
Tesla has been forced to settle several lawsuits over violating consumers’ rights, including a recent one in which the company was accused of doubling the price of its solar roofs after customers had already signed a contract.
In addition, experts have said that the company’s misleading marketing around its “Full-Self Driving” feature, which still requires driver supervision, has led to unsafe driving practices and accidents.
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