Electric car maker Tesla Inc. is expanding its service operations and hiring more than 1,000 technicians to meet expected demand for its new Model 3 sedan.
Deliveries of the Model 3, which is cheaper than Tesla's existing cars, are expected to start this month. The car is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of new customers to the brand.
To accommodate them, the Palo Alto company is adding 100 service centers worldwide over the next year, bringing its total number of service centers to 250, focused on areas that have the most reservation-holders for the Model 3.
Tesla also is adding 350 vans to its mobile service fleet, mostly in the U.S. The vans go to owners' homes or offices and repair their cars while they wait, typically for about one hour. The vans are equipped with tools and replacement parts as well as an espresso machine, snacks and kids' toys.
Until recently, Tesla had about 30 mobile repair vans, which were used mostly when the owner lived too far from a service center. About six months ago, the company began deploying the vans in the San Francisco area to ease the burden on its service centers and see if they could help meet anticipated demand for the Model 3. Customers were apparently happy with the arrangement, so the company decided to roll out mobile service in more locations.
There are 100 of the vans available globally, Tesla said. It said the vans can handle most jobs that do not require a lift. A lift is needed for such jobs as battery and motor repairs.
At a starting price of $35,000, the Model 3 is about half the cost of Tesla's two other models. Tesla hasn't said how many people hold refundable $1,000 reservations for the car, but it has said it expects to make 500,000 vehicles in 2018. That's up from 84,000 last year.
As with its stores, which are owned by the company and not by franchised dealers, Tesla has upended the auto industry with its service model. Chief Executive Elon Musk said several years ago that unlike traditional dealerships, Tesla didn't intend to make a profit on service and repairs. U.S. dealers made $110 billion in service and parts sales last year, according to the National Automobile Dealers Assn.
Tesla said it's charging the same amount for non-warranty repairs done at service centers or through mobile vans. It hasn't released details on the warranty plan for the Model 3, so it's not yet clear whether it will match Tesla's other vehicles. The Model S and Model X have a four-year, 50,000-mile vehicle warranty and an eight-year battery warranty with unlimited miles.
Unlike traditional dealers, Tesla also doesn't want customers to have to go to a service center for repairs that can be done remotely. The company says 80% of repairs to its cars, including replacing the tires and fixing electronic glitches, can be done without a lift, which means it's just as easy to perform them out of a mobile repair van. That leaves service centers free to concentrate on more complicated repairs that require a lift, such as motor or battery problems.
Tesla said it is hiring 1,400 new service technicians this year to staff the service centers and mobile repair vans.
Tesla said the additional mobile service vans and technicians will be in place by the end of this year and that the new service centers will be available in a year.
Times staff writer Rachel Spacek contributed to this report.
10:05 a.m.: This article was updated with additional details about the service vans and with when the additional vans and service centers are expected to become available.