After we wrote about the 2019 Consumer Reports Reliability Survey, some readers got in touch to say they do not trust CR. We do, despite our concerns with some aspects of the survey, but they are entitled not to do so. An excellent way to know whether a car is reliable or not is to ask a taxi driver. Or look for the prevalent models at cab stands. Four of them are suing Tesla in Amsterdam precisely because they think Model S cars are not reliable.
Gallery: Reliability: Dutch Taxi Drivers Sue Tesla For Model S Problems
Taxi drivers need to make the most of their investments. They cannot have a car stranded in a shop waiting for repairs for days. They make incredibly high mileages every year. NRC.nl – the biggest newspaper in the Netherlands – reports that Samir Bougrina had to repair his Model S 33 times in 3 years. Almost once a month.
According to the article, the law firm De Vries & Kasem is taking care of the matter for Bougrina, Badradin Boucharraba, Said Aberkane, and Mourad el Makhlofi. All of them work for SchipholTaxi, the company that operates cab services at the airport. More are expected to join the lawsuit soon. The description in the article of defects they had to face is impressive:
“The windscreen wiper hits the hood. The flashing lights on the side will come off. The side mirror adjusts itself as it sees fit. The tire pressure sensor breaks off. When steering and braking, clicking noises are heard. The suspension is cracking, the wind is loud, the reversing light contains moisture.
Within a year, more serious defects arise. Brakes that don't work, brakes that rust, an engine that fails on the highway, charging problems, a door that flies open in the bend. In a single car, the engine has to be replaced.”
The problems started shortly after getting the cars in 2014. The article mentions 165 Tesla Model S were in service, but all reports we find, including the video above, talk about 167. Each of them would have to invest at least €86,000 per car, but they decided to lease them for four years.
The Teslas were a demand by the Schiphol Airport, which wanted to show it is environmentally responsible. Working at airports gives taxi drivers a constant flux of passengers that sometimes travel really far. That ensures they make good money if the cars can run long enough. The Model S theoretically could do that, with a range of 502 km (311 mi) with the 85 derivatives.
One of the complaints these taxi drivers make is that they have free Supercharging for life, but Tesla decided they could not go to the Service Center from September 2016 onwards because it had become a “cab stand.” If they kept going there, SchipholTaxi would get a few days of suspension.
The solution was a dedicated parking lot with chargers for the taxi drivers in which “the same rules” would apply. That is when they started receiving bills of hundreds of euros for charging there. These chargers had to be paid, but drivers were not aware of that. They just plugged their cars in as in a regular Supercharger. Tesla gave their info to SchipholTaxi, which took care of billing them.
To make matters worse, Tesla performed in 2016 an over-the-air update that made many drivers see their ranges fall from 350 km (217 mi) to around 250 km (155 mi) or even 200 km (124 mi). That means the taxis have to stop more often to charge and carry fewer passengers around.
It is a similar situation – only earlier – to the software updates 2019.16.1 or 2019.16.2 performed in May 2019. They led David Rasmussen to sue Tesla in the US in August. Tesla responded in the Dutch lawsuit that the range loss was due to battery degradation.
We have tried to contact the law firm and SchipholTaxi regarding the lawsuit. As soon as we hear from them, we’ll update this article. Tesla will contact us whenever it feels necessary. We’d love to hear from the company and to put its version of the facts here as well.