Tesla Service Center: Highland Park

On December 20th Tesla opened their largest service center in the Midwest right here on the North Shore, Highland Park, Illinois. I visited the center yesterday and Evan gave me the full tour. This facility will serve as a showroom, sales, a delivery site for lucky new Model S owners and of course service. It also has 4 Superchargers on the south side of the building for 24/7 free charging of your Model S.

When you think about service for your gas car it means regular oil changes, periodic maintenance and of course those times when something is wrong and you have to take your car in. I would be the first to say that today’s gas car dealer service experience has improved significantly over the last ten years. Clean, comfortable surrounds for waiting, better explanation of services and fairly accurate time estimates on when your car will be ready to get back on the road.

Model S service is a very different animal all together. The facility is super clean with the floors, walls and ceiling painted white. That’s how they started the work on the Fremont, California factory. Painting everything white. Since the cars don’t use oil or gas, the environment appears to be more like a lab than a garage. There are no exhaust fumes to deal with so the doors can be kept closed which means less cool or warm air being wasted. The guys that service the car are technicians, not mechanics because software management is a big part of the work that might be done. Growing up the nickname for mechanics was “grease monkey” because these guys had to crawl all around inside the hood and under the vehicle and emerged covered in gas, oil and grease. Probably the dirtiest a Tesla tech will get is when he rotates the tires. Each service visit ends with a full, free charge of the battery pack so you can roll out in style.

There is an inherent challenge in owning a Model S. If you do need service, you will have to take it to Tesla. It’s comforting to see they are taking service after the sale seriously.

Tesla is striving to be a very different car company. They are working to make money on the sales of the car, not on financing or service. This at the root of why many traditional car dealers are trying to block sales of Teslas in their state. If the paradigm shifts that significantly, the business model will be disrupted, causing a major overhaul for many of the players along the way.

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