If You Want Changes to Your Tesla, Just Ask Elon?

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Perhaps the most frustrating issue that one can have as a consumer is getting a company to listen to you, get what you pay for, or make improvements to what you feel is a somehow flawed product. AOL employee Ryan Block illustrated this perfectly with his hellacious 20-minute recording of his efforts to disconnect his Comcast service, which eventually led to the company offering a needed though perhaps insincere apology to Block for his ordeal.

For Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA), though, it seems that if you think your vehicle is lacking something, you can just ask CEO Elon Musk. Via a full-page ad in the Palo Alto regional newspaper. With the irony of reaching one of the great tech minds of our day through good old fashioned newsprint aside, Musk proved that Tesla’s service to its customers will be unparalleled. He responded.

The requests, presented by a Tesla-owning couple in New York, ranged from moving the cup holders to running a media campaign to more effectively share the good news. To date, Tesla has yet to launch a nationwide media effort, relying instead on news media, word of mouth, and in-person events to spread the word. Musk has since remained mum on what suggestions will in fact be implemented, but a piece that ran in Green Car Reports suggests that his willingness to take ideas goes beyond a public relations maneuver due to the paper ad’s high visibility.

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David Noland, a Tesla owner who writes about his experiences with the car for Green Car Reports, says that this isn’t a one-time publicity stunt that Musk has executed to garner the praise of his fans. It’s been his modus operandi at least since the introduction of the first Model S.

“On the wildest of  whims, I decided to e-mail Elon with a suggestion,” Noland said. “‘Please give us driver-adjustable regen braking on the Model S,’ I pleaded. To my utter astonishment, three hours later I got a reply: ‘I totally agree that regen should be driver adjustable, and it will be on Model S.’ Musk copied the message to his chief technical officer, JB Straubel. Over the following year, Musk and I had three more e-mail exchanges, on the subject of battery power, cold-weather range, and the annual maintenance plan. In all cases, he responded the same day — on one occasion, within seven minutes.”

Elon Musk’s willingness to be receptive to the concerns of Tesla drivers illustrates just how intent the company is on shaking up the business-consumer paradigm in the auto industry. From it’s retail-type stores to personal responses from the CEO himself, Tesla is reshaping the way a car company interacts with its customers. Will he be replying to every suggestion or complaint that comes his way? No, of course not, there just are not that many hours in a day.

Another point is this: gasoline engines have been around so long and have reached such voluminous quantities that there’s a fundamental understanding about how they work, what can be improved, how to make them safer. There are decades upon decades of real world testing in the hands of consumers, so much so that the fundamental kinks have long been worked out. But that’s not the case for Tesla — with its cars on the roads since just 2008, Tesla is still testing its products everyday and it relies on the feedback from its consumers to help identify potential flaws.

Tesla is also small enough still that a serious problem could completely derail its future plans. Remember when that small rash of fires occurred? Tesla was so on top of it that the owners probably had to ask for air. Tesla wants to give its consumers what they want not only for the obvious reason that it’s just damn good business, but because if it doesn’t, there isn’t a second chance.

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