By Joey Klender
Tesla’s salvaged vehicles make for an excellent project for rebuilders, or a chance to have an industry-leading electric car for a discounted price. Some members of the community have even made the act of rebuilding wrecked or damaged Teslas a career, like Rich Rebuilds, who runs a prominent YouTube channel. However, Tesla stopped allowing Supercharging on their salvaged vehicles in February 2020. This move ended fast charging capabilities for the owners of wrecked and refurbished Teslas, but now rebuilders are reporting that the electric vehicle company is taking away more functions.
We received a tip from a Tesla salvager who says the company is now refusing to update ownership records, nor will it activate the smartphone application, which enables some functions for the electric vehicle in question. However, Tesla has a reason for doing this, and it has to do with revenue and passenger safety, which is something the company is under a microscope for from its harshest critics.
But the real reason we are talking about it this week is because there is a valid argument for both points of view, and both should be examined in an open platform. When you decide which side you are on, please e-mail me and let me know your thoughts.
First, let’s look at the side of the salvagers. They have a few main points on why taking away vehicle privileges is wrong. One issue is the fact that salvaged Teslas, if not repaired and resold, will end up sitting in a landfill for basically the remainder of the time.
It is a shame that a car that is capable of repair could end up in a landfill to sit and rot away for the rest of time. Not only is it a waste of space, but its a waste of a perfectly good high-performance vehicle. Not to mention, project cars are a hobby and a career for some. Eliminating the possibility of preparing or working on a Tesla electric vehicle to bring it back to life reduces the industry of bringing the cars back to life.
Next, the revitalization of these salvaged vehicles creates an opportunity for a more affordable Tesla ownership experience for some. Rebuilding vehicles creates profit for the person responsible for bringing the car back to a driveable state. At the same time, the owner can sometimes receive a discounted price on a perfectly drivable vehicle that could have low miles.
The industry of rebuilding crashed, or damaged cars are advantageous for multiple parties financially. The issue is the cars are not always repaired by mechanics properly, which can lead to quality and safety issues down the line. However, this could be another opportunity for Tesla to train salvagers, mechanics, and collision repair technicians across the world. The idea of making repair seminars or courses available for those who plan to revitalize a Tesla vehicle could lead to an influx of people who are familiar with the cars inside and out.
To the flip side, Tesla’s arguments are just as reliable as those of the rebuilders. Tesla has maintained a reputation for having extremely safe vehicles that are capable of saving people from severe injuries when they are involved in scary and violent accidents. When cars are damaged and end up in salvage yards, ending up in the hands of those who are interested in repairing them, they are never really the same. The most severely damaged cars can have chassis and build issues that can never be fixed fully, only masked, and pushed as close to perfect as possible. They’ll never be “factory issue,” and they’ll never drive precisely how they would when they rolled out of a production facility. However, they can be fabricated, rewelded, and adjusted to specifications that are incredibly close to how Tesla intended them to be. But this is a case that would require the individual inspection of each repaired vehicle by a Tesla representative. With 1,000,000 Tesla vehicles manufactured in the company’s history, this would be near impossible, even if .01% of them were salvaged and repaired.
The likelihood of a Tesla rep traveling to the location of a rebuilt vehicle and going through hours of inspection: making sure all parts of the car are correctly installed, properly connected, and aligned safely would not be cost-effective, smart, or worth Tesla’s time. However, it would be necessary. Like I said before, this company has a reputation for building safe cars. When someone in a Tesla gets in an accident, the short sellers and the Elon haters come out of the woodwork looking for answers. Why? So if someone got hurt, or heaven forbid, killed in an accident, they could use it as justification that the cars are not as safe as Tesla advertises, and somehow that means Elon is a fraud.
It is a ridiculous train of thought. I’ll never understand Tesla’s short-sellers celebrating other people’s injuries. Instead of rooting for someone to get hurt, why not root for the company to make safer cars? It would only make other automakers want to match Tesla’s quality, and it wouldn’t be such a horrible thing to have more safe vehicles on the road.
Regardless, Tesla has to account for the fact that if someone gets hurt in a revitalized vehicle that was formerly a salvage, it will be a never-ending storm of media harassment. I can see the misleading headlines now…”Driver killed in Tesla proving cars aren’t so safe after all,” or something to that effect. It is a risk that they simply cannot take, and it is not worth the company’s future.
Additionally, Tesla makes money when they sell new cars, not when people buy wrecked ones and decide to rebuild them. Let’s not forget, this is a car company, and ultimately a business. While Tesla’s mission is to provide people with safe and affordable electric vehicles that benefit our environment and our well-being, they need to make money.
In the end, Tesla’s decision, while financial, is also a safety issue. Sure, Elon would love to see some custom projects. I’d bet he would like to see his cars developed into something different than what Tesla builds in their factories. But I also bet that he wouldn’t want someone to get hurt or killed as a result of negligence while refurbishing a vehicle. Ultimately, it would end up being blood on his hands, and this risk makes it entirely too risky from a business standpoint.
While people are still free to rebuild the cars, they will undoubtedly run into roadblocks—no Supercharging, issues with transferring ownership titles, so on and so forth. Tesla is doing it for money, but it is also doing it for safety. In the big picture, that’s why I think what they are doing is okay, even though I feel for the rebuilders.