Nobody likes a car recall ... unless you drive a Tesla.
Getting a recall letter in the mail for your car is annoying at best. It's an invitation to waste hours of your day and end up with a car that functions the way it was supposed to function in the first place.
But Tesla Inc. (TSLA) has found a way to take the inconvenience out of recalls - and most other dealer service work, for that matter. And it's something that the rest of the industry needs to be paying attention to.
A few months ago, I got a letter in the mail advising that my Tesla Model S was part of a recall for Takata airbag inflators that was affecting scores of different manufacturers. They'd reach out when it was time to bring the car in for the fix. Then, late last week, a service representative shot me an email wondering if I'd like Tesla's mobile service to swing by my house or office to take care of the replacement.
By Monday morning, a Tesla service van was in my driveway, and a technician was putting a new airbag in my dashboard.
Total time required: 2 minutes to pull the car out of the garage.
Let's be clear; nobody is going to buy a Tesla just because it offers mobile service.
And it's clearly a model that's only financially viable on pricier cars that come with high service costs (my local Tesla Service Center charges $150 per hour).
But in a segment of the market where customer experience is crucial, it moves the needle. More importantly, it's indicative of the types of things in which Tesla is willing to invest its resources.
Last year, Tesla announced it planned on tripling its service van fleet, bringing it to 480 vehicles on the road. And Tesla says that 80% of repairs can be done outside of a service center. Even more interesting, Tesla reported in Q4 that mobile service vehicles currently account for almost a third of all service visits.
In other words, these aren't some gimmick - they're a major piece of the service puzzle.
Likewise, that added capacity comes as Tesla's Model 3 starts hitting the road in meaningful numbers - Bloomberg estimates that more than 15,000 Model 3s have been delivered, and Tesla is building more than 3,000 new cars a week.
That's a large number of people who are about to experience a very different approach to vehicle servicing.
(And experience it they will - as Tesla works out production kinks, it's expected that failure and repair rates will be higher than average on early vehicles.)
While Tesla's stock is still waiting for the catalyst it needs to break free of selling pressure this spring, redoubling on initiatives like mobile service at the exact same time the firm is approaching maximum acceleration on its Model 3 production curve means that this stock is worth keeping a very close eye on in the months ahead.