Calling them lemons or not depends on the laws each country adopts.
Norway is unparalleled for its love of electric cars. Unfortunately, this has exposed the country to the same type of lemon laundering we have in the US. Lemon laundering involves a company selling vehicles that were once defective as if they were perfectly normal used cars. It is a behavior lawyers and consumer protection entities accuse Tesla of having in the US, and now it appears to be happening in Norway too.
Although selling lemon cars is not something Tesla invented or was first to do, it may suffer from it more than traditional automakers. After all, its direct sales and direct service models cuts out the middle man. There is no dealer to blame for selling a pre-owned car without disclosing its issues. That's on Tesla and Tesla alone.
There are possibly many more countries in which this is happening than just the US and Norway, but these are the ones for which we have evidence. In regards to the new cases we've found in Norway, they involve Ola Spakmo, one of the first Tesla owners in Norway; Jens Petter Lund Sommerlade; and Marius Andrè Langø.
In Norway, lemon cars are called “mandagsbil,” something translated as "a Monday car." That expression comes from the belief that vehicles made on Monday are built less precisely, having been made by workers in a bad mood, affected by a hangover.
Spakmo is one of the best-known victims of a defective Tesla in Norway. He took delivery of his Model S on September 21, 2013. On October 23, 2013, he was already asking Tesla – still thrilled with the car – to repair a crack in the plastic cover on the left underside of the car, peeling on the left front rim, radio reception, water coming inside the trunk when he opened the tailgate, and a leaky sunroof.
That was just the beginning of his saga, which ended five years and three crashes later, in 2018. Spakmo told us this:
“Norwegian law states that consumers can demand cancellation within five years if a product is not according to specifications and a shop has been given two tries to repair it.”
Sadly, these would not be the only or most severe problems Spakmo would have to deal with. He sent Tesla an email message on February 9, 2018, describing a brake issue.
“It happened at around 0ºC, when there's a lot of snow. I there refer to my first crash two years earlier, how the car has consistently been brake-malfunctioning upon start and again at that time. Two days after this email message, I crashed again…”
In 2016, Spakmo hit the back of another car when his Model S failed to brake. The accident on February 11, 2018, repeated the circumstances: cold weather, lack of braking power after starting the Tesla, and a car ahead getting a rear-end crash.
“After reading about other cases, it seems to be frozen condensation in the vacuum pump of the brake booster that is the cause.
I demanded the cancellation of the purchase on March 27th, 2018. Tesla declined. After that, I went to the consumer rights board in Norway. It's almost like court proceedings in writing. It went back and forth. They ruled it in my favor but not fully. They gave a verdict that Tesla had to reimburse my money. Therefore, I took the case to court.
In the preliminary hearings with the judge, Tesla agreed to buy the car back. I explained this was important for me as I didn't dare to take the responsibility to sell a car with these defects to another person. The case was therefore settled in Oslo Court House on September 23, 2019.”
Jens Petter Lund Sommerlade
That was when Jens Petter Lund Sommerlade joined the story.
“I had always wanted a Model S and I bought one from a dealership. After putting it into Valet Mode, I needed a pin code to get out of it, so I contacted the previous owner, Ola Spakmo.”
As you already know, Spakmo did not want the responsibility to sell a defective car to anyone. Still, he was also not comfortable that the new owner did not know anything about it.
“He told me Tesla had bought it back after he made a case against them that went to court.
Spakmo crashed it three times, one time because of brakes would not connect. He had warned Tesla about this a number of times. Other than this, he had apparently had the car serviced 60 times because of several problems.
After Tesla bought it back from Mr. Spakmo, they auctioned it off without letting the dealer know it had been crashed three times.”
Luckily for Sommerlade, he did business with a very honest car seller, Kbil AS. We tried contacting the dealer but have yet to receive a reply.
“After learning about the crashes, I contacted the dealer. They were surprised and took it back to Tesla. They were refunded, and also was I. The dealer acted really great, and they told me they did not know any of that.”
The experience was devastating for both former Tesla fans, starting from Spakmo.
“This is a defunct business practice, ethically speaking! After Mr. Sommerlade returned the car to the dealer, Tesla again has sent it out to another car dealership! I found it in the Vehicle Registry today.”
Sommerlade also did not spare words to describe how he felt.
“I did not have the same issues, but I cannot drive a car comfortably when I know the brakes have a history of not working. There will also always be unsecurity with the solidity of the car after three crashes. In Norway, we have a law that you have to inform the buyer that a car has been crashed. When they auctioned this car to the dealer I bought it from, they broke that law. If I were to sell it, I would have to inform the new buyer and instantly lose a lot of money.
The experience ruined Tesla for me because I don’t want to support a brand that treats its customers that way, that cheats. I don’t want to leave my money with them.”
The Norwegian consumer laws are more comprehensive than requiring disclosure about previous crashes alone, but we'll get back to that later. First, we'll tell you about another “mandagsbil.”
Marius Andrè Langø
Marius Andrè Langø bought his 2018 Tesla Model S 75 in November 2018 as a way to save money on tolls and gas. He lives in Florø but works in Førde, 56 kilometers (34.8 miles) away, which implies traveling at least 112 km (69.6 mi) every single day. The closest Tesla Service Center is in Kokstad, 244 km (151.6 mi) away. He spent quite some time trying to solve his situation. After he managed to get rid of his EV, the car wound up for sale on the Tesla Norway website, where it's still for sale at the time this article was published.
Langø’s story has more tragicomic events compared to Spakmo’s. When he started having issues with the car, he had to travel around 500 km (310 mi) each time to get them sorted. Langø made at least eight such trips in total – 4,000 km, or 2,486 mi – until he decided he had had too much.
It was January 2020 when he created a candid used car listing for his “mandagsbil" on Finn.no. It was seen hundreds of thousands of times. Surprisingly, some people were willing to buy the car but thought it was too expensive. Tesla eventually gave in and bought it back “after 1.5 years of hard struggle with a lawyer."
“I was tired. From January to June 2020, when Tesla bought it, I had the car for only five weeks. They also scratched the car when it was in the workshop. They never finished the repairs at the agreed time. I drove 500 km – 8 hours – to the workshop every time it went in. I documented faults in other workshops, but Tesla always said it was within specifications. Or that they could not fix it at that time.”
As we already told you, his car was not fixed after 1.5 year, but was put up for sale by Tesla on its website just weeks after the company bought it back. People getting in touch with the company to learn more about the car have told Langø about the conversations they've had. In the image below of a text chat with Tesla, Erik is a Tesla employee, while Jon André is the customer.
The translation follows below:
– I have heard that this is a “mandagsbil.”
– Should not have been :)
– Can you confirm that?
– We are not allowed to state previous service history on the cars due to GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). But I can confirm that it has undergone a thorough technical inspection, and there should be nothing with this. You also get a 4 years/80,000 km guarantee on the car.
– Ok, then I will track down the previous owner and hear from them about how the car has been. I will NOT have a Tesla “mandagsbil.” ;-)
– Would not be afraid of it :)
Forbrukerrådet - The Norwegian Consumer Council
Is it true that you can return your car after five years in Norway if it is defective? And that the seller has to inform you about crashes and defects? Yes, it is possible to return a car if certain requirements are met and you bought the car from a car dealer, according to Caroline Skarderud, legal consultant for Forbrukerrådet (The Norwegian Consumer Council).
The Forbrukerrådet works as a neutral entity. Therefore, Skarderud cannot comment on specific cases, but she was willing to tell us how the legal system works in Norway regarding consumer rights.
"When a Norwegian car dealer sells a car to a Norwegian consumer, the trader is bound by The Act related to Consumer Purchases (Forbrukerkjøpsloven). This act gives the consumer specific rights which cannot be altered. If the car has a defect, the consumer has the right to file a complaint to the seller. The consumer can complain about both the car’s condition in general and the lack of information he had a reason to expect to be told before the purchase."
Which information is that? A previous crash? Recurring defects? Skarderud kindly provided us with a translated version of the Consumer Act and the part that is more relevant to us is Section 16, b).
"Section 16. Defects
The item is defective when:
b) the seller failed to disclose, when the purchase was made, matters relating to the item or its use which he or she should have been aware of and which the consumer had grounds to expect to be told, if this failure can be assumed to have influenced the purchase."
Considering the only person to properly say how companies should behave is the judge responsible for the lawsuit that involves them, what we have is a guideline. Skarderud stresses that the seller also has rights: the chance to properly fix the car and keep the money.
"A car dealer has the right to fix the car if and only if certain requirements are met. Whenever there is a legal defect in a car, the seller can say that he wants to fix it, but as a main rule he only has two attempts on the same legal defect. If the defect is there for a third time and it is more severe, then you have the right to cancel the contract and claim your money back. Anyway, you can't do that from the start if the seller is compliant with this Consumer Act."
Since Tesla failed to fix issues with Sommerlade's and Langø's cars, the remaining question is whether their future owners would be influenced in their purchase of the cars by knowing their prior defect history.
Skarderud says she is not aware of any manufacturers in Norway trying to hide defects from used cars they had to buy back, but that Forbrukerrådet will now pay close attention to any such efforts.
In an article published in April by TV2.no, she stated that Tesla has received 53 complaints so far in 2020 through April, 194 total in 2019, and 82 in 2018. Forbrukerrådet compared those numbers with ones from other electric car manufacturers and Tesla had three times as many complaints.
Skarderud informed us that they are considering making that assessment again this fall, comparing the number of complaints against Tesla to other electric car producers and to legacy automakers. We will bring you the results if Forbrukerrådet does such an analysis.
The bottom line is that selling repurchased cars with disclosing prior defects is something Tesla hasn't just done in the US, but also in another very important EV market: Norway, where EVs make up more than 50% of new cars sold.