Countless defects, numerous failures and poor service: The Dutch taxi company Bios-Groep is pissed off at the electric car manufacturer Tesla. The site manager says he’s never seen more problems in his long career than at Tesla.
It’s strangely quiet at Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands. The coronavirus pandemic has largely paralyzed air traffic there, and taxi transport for air travelers is correspondingly poor. However, there is another reason why dozens of black Tesla vehicles are chained to their charging stations in a large warehouse in Schiphol-Rijk : The taxi company Bios-Groep stationed there is in a dispute with Tesla and wants the electric car pioneer to reach 1.3 million Sue for damages.
Around 70 Tesla Model X are in use at the Bios-Groep – and around 20 of them have serious problems. According to his own admission, site manager Tofik Ohoudi has never seen more problems in his long career as a fleet manager than at Tesla. The power steering in one of the Stromers is broken. For others, the drive shafts gave up after a few months. Another recurring defect: broken wishbones on some brand new models. “Bizarre”, Ohoudi comments on the problems. “Usually that only happens after 500,000 kilometers.”
The company Taxi Jappie from Zwanenburg, which together with Bios drives to Schiphol Airport, has problems with ten of its Teslas. “I ‘ve never had to replace a wishbone or drive shaft at Mercedes . Not even when we were transporting wheelchairs and the vans were heavily loaded,” says company boss Jill Sweijen to the Dutch financial magazine Het Financieele Dagblad.
At Mercedes, “the men with the white coats” came and solved problems
Another problem that has been identified is particularly delicate for taxi companies: The Teslas often display incorrect mileage. The vehicles sometimes deviate several tens of kilometers from the taxi company’s own records. In one case, a Stromer even “misjudged” itself by more than 4,700 kilometers. If the controlling authorities see this, they could see it as an attempt at fraud, the taxi companies fear. Tesla’s service partners then offered an unconventional solution: They could adjust the mileage according to the records of the taxi company – but that too would be punishable.
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“As far as I know, Bios has never brought a supplier to court. Normally you can solve all problems together,” says Managing Director René van der Veer at the Bios headquarters in Rotterdam. Sometimes there were problems with the cars of the previous supplier Mercedes-Benz , but then “the men with the white coats came from Germany and it was solved.”
The Tesla taxis do not manage the specified range
At Tesla, the business relationship had started out similarly promising. Together with SchipholTaxi, Bios had received an eight-year license to enable emission-free driving at Schiphol Airport. This is namely one hundred percent electrically operated and only locally emission-free vehicles are permitted there as taxis. One of the prerequisites: The taxi battery must be designed for a range of at least 400 kilometers.
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So Bios initially bought 72 Model Ss for a total of 5.7 million euros – for Tesla, a company that was significantly smaller in 2014, that was a nice boost. The rude awakening was not long in coming: As it turned out, the Stromer did not manage the promised range of more than 400 kilometers. “Tesla has promised that it won’t be a problem at all,” explains Van der Veer. “But our taxis never made it that far.” Tesla argues that the taxi company is using the cars too intensively. “Nonsense,” says Van der Veer, and counters: “We emphasized in the negotiations that this is a crucial point for us as a taxi company because we travel a lot.”
Model S will be exchanged for Model X – instead of fear of range, you are now plagued with defects and defects
In 2016, Tesla and Bios come to a compromise: 64 Model S are exchanged for the new, more expensive Model X. The total costs amounted to more than 7.9 million euros. After all, the Dutch government supported Bios with both purchases with a total of around one million euros.
In November 2017, the Model X finally arrive at Bios and this time also manage the promised 400 kilometers. However, the vehicles now have so many defects that they are in the garage more often than they can be found on the Dutch roads. In 2018 alone, Bios has to have more than 75 defects eliminated.
At some point, Tesla Service stopped answering the phone
Which brings us to the next problem that Bios says is really desperate: Bad service. Bios initially had a permanent contact, as is usual for companies with a large fleet. From October 2018, however, communication suddenly had to take place via an anonymous “front office” where hardly anyone could be reached. Since June 2019, Bios is no longer allowed to call the service at all. “Problems had to be filled in via an online form and then we can only hope that someone answers,” says Van der Veer. All too often, however, this is not the case.
Taxi Jappie also regularly has to wait six to eight weeks for her Teslas to be repaired. Replacement vehicles hardly consoled the company about the drop in sales, because they neither have the blue license plates nor the special on-board computer that taxis have to use in Holland .
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In 2019, Tesla will then introduce a rule according to which the Bios-Groep can only have two Stromers repaired at the same time. However, if more than two vehicles have problems at the same time, they often stand around for weeks while the permanently employed taxi drivers continue to be paid. This is one of the reasons why Bios comes to the demanded compensation amount of 1.3 million euros.
In September 2018, a fire broke out in Tesla’s service center, where a Bios Tesla was being repaired. The taxi company’s car was parked next to the burning car and, although it was not damaged during the fire, was “lost” for five months. It was only when Bios, in his desperation, switched on the police , that the car suddenly reappeared. In this case, Bios demands a further 60,000 euros in damages.
Bios CEO: “Why in the world should we have to pay for defective parts?”
Then there are the invoices for repairs: In 2018, Tesla will still repair the defects free of charge, but from 2019 the automaker will send out invoices for tens of thousands of euros. According to Tesla, the guarantee, which covers up to 80,000 kilometers, has now expired. Now invoices for 150,000 euros are outstanding because Bios refuses to pay. “Of course we pay for maintenance and normal repairs,” says CEO Van der Veer. “But why on earth should we have to pay for defective parts?”
As a result, the mood between the two parties is so poisoned that Tesla refuses to make any further repairs to the cars. Switching to another workshop is also not possible. At Tesla, repairs may only be carried out through official authorized workshops. “Tesla wants to make its customers very dependent,” Van der Veer is certain. “If we were fully operational now, we would have big problems.” Tesla itself has so far not wanted to make an official comment on inquiries about the disputes. Bios is still hesitant to file a lawsuit against Tesla, as the car manufacturer could simply deactivate the vehicles remotely if in doubt.
Bios CEO is still convinced of electric mobility. The company has now bought five Audi e-trons . “Someone there answers the phone,” says Van der Veer.