To prepare for the Model 3's launch this month, Tesla Inc. is relying on an unorthodox strategy to keep service up to speed: sending the tech to the owner.
In February, Tesla said in its fourth-quarter earnings release that it would expand its mobile repair service to handle the addition of a third nameplate this year and a production increase to 500,000 vehicles a year starting in 2018.
Other automakers have offered such services as luxury extras, but Tesla is relying on its program to fill the gaps of a slow-growing service center network.
"Since more than 80 percent of our repairs are so minor that they can be done remotely, we are expanding our mobile repair service that allows Tesla to make vehicle repairs at an owner's home or office," Tesla's letter to investors read.
While Tesla's software fixes can be delivered via over-the-air updates, other repairs require in-person maintenance. But Tesla's service infrastructure is far from comprehensive — as of June, there were 67 U.S. Tesla service centers in 25 states.
Until more service centers are added, technicians will hit the road to help with vehicle maintenance — a strategy that may not scale well with Tesla's growing fleet.
"When you have a new model coming out, you want to do all of your case studies and technical work to make sure [any problem with a vehicle is] not a wide-scale problem" signaling the need for a recall, said Nick Rodgers, a fixed operations consultant at M5 Management Services in Pelham, Ala., and a former assistant service manager at a Tesla service center in Houston. "You can't do that in a customer's driveway."