President Jon McNeill outlines Tesla’s disruptive approach to servicing cars [Video]

At a recent event for Tesla owners in Amsterdam, Jon McNeill, Tesla’s President of Global Sales and Service, discussed a number of new initiatives that are in the pipeline. 


Above: A look inside a Tesla service center (Instagram: model3ny)

For the 300 Tesla owners in attendance, the most interesting of these are probably the company’s ongoing improvements to its service operations. As McNeill explains, Tesla aims not only to deliver the best cars, but also the best overall ownership experience, so it is constantly looking for ways to streamline the service process.

At the Amsterdam service center, the company now employs a system of triage that begins with remote diagnostics before the customer even brings a vehicle in. Tesla technicians sort cars into four categories depending on how long their repairs are expected to take. The quickest fixes are directed to the Ludicrous Lane, with the goal of repairing the issue before the customer finishes a cup of coffee. Procedures that will take longer are dealt with in the other three lanes, and customers who don’t choose to wait are provided with a loaner car. The process of checking in is supposed to take no more than three minutes.

Tesla has learned that about 80% of problems don’t require putting the car on a lift, so they can be dealt with at the customer’s home by the company’s Mobile Service techs (formerly known as Rangers). Their legacy service vans will soon be replaced by specially-equipped Model X and Model S vehicles.


Above: One of the new Tesla Model S mobile service vehicles (Source: Imgur)

A side benefit of the mobile service is that it opens up space at the service centers. According to McNeill, performing 80% of repairs on a mobile basis means that Tesla can eliminate 80% of the work at the service center, which will open up the space needed to expand operations for Model 3.

Tesla has shortened wait times for service appointments - in Amsterdam, it’s down to 3 days - and has seen a sharp rise in customer satisfaction figures. And massive improvements to the global service organization are on the way - the company has plans to add 100 new service centers, 350 new mobile units and 1,400 new technicians.

During a Q&A session after McNeill’s speech, a Dutch owner asked the question that’s on a lot of people’s minds at the moment: When is Autopilot 2.0 going to deliver the performance that the old Autopilot system did?

In 2016, Tesla parted ways with Mobileye, the company that built the hardware for the previous version of Autopilot, and switched over to its own hardware, based on processors from Nvidia. This meant going back to square one with the software, so to speak, and Tesla owners, who are used to continuous improvements to their cars’ capabilities, haven’t been happy about taking a step backward.


Above: Tesla’s President of Global Sales and Service, Jon McNeill, gives an update at a recent Tesla owners event in Amsterdam (Youtube: Vincent Everts)

McNeill acknowledged that developing software for the new hardware stack has been “challenging,” and that Tesla is behind schedule in terms of achieving parity with Autopilot 1. However, he revealed that a much improved system is currently being tested, and will be released to owners as soon as the validation process deems it safe. McNeill has hands-on knowledge of the issue - he’s a beta tester for AP 2.0, and uses it every day on his way to work. “The functionality that I’m experiencing on the test releases is really good,” he says. “I’m super-encouraged with what I’m driving now.”

McNeill promised that owners will see some major advances within the current quarter (i.e. before the end of this year).

Judging by the audience reaction when someone asked about the navigation interface, this is also an issue that’s on a lot of owners’ minds. McNeill says Tesla has been working on its entire navigation engine, including mapping and routing, as well as the ability to exchange navigation information between the phone-based app and the car itself. The new nav system has already been released in some countries, and will be rolling out worldwide soon.

Offline trip planning, wintertime battery pre-conditioning... as always, “a lot of cool stuff” is in the Tesla pipeline.