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I just swapped a Tesla Model 3 for a Model Y and Elon Musk’s brutal layoffs ruined the experience

I turned in a 2021 Tesla Model 3 and leased a 2024 Model Y, and I learned firsthand how badly Tesla’s layoffs have affected morale and customer service.

My firsthand experience of Tesla layoffs

My husband and I wanted to work with Tesla’s new South Burlington, Vermont, Tesla Center because it’s an easy 1 hour 20 minutes drive away. However, it’s not handling lease returns or new car deliveries yet.

The fledgling team at South Burlington doesn’t know when lease returns or new car deliveries will start. They told me, “Could be weeks, could be months.” The customer service team in Las Vegas didn’t know either. Kinda makes you wonder, who does actually know?

Anyway, we had to do the thing that Vermonters have had to do for years, which is drive five hours south to the Tesla Center in Paramus, New Jersey. That’s because New Hampshire doesn’t have a Tesla Center, and Massachusetts doesn’t allow out-of-state car pickups.

But first, I had to go through the leasing process on the Tesla app. Spoiler: It wasn’t good.

The app first suggested a delivery date that we simply couldn’t attend – driving to New Jersey and back in a day is a 12-hour day. So I repeatedly called Tesla customer service to make alternate arrangements, and no one answered the phone. My favorite part was the robo recording voice that said, “We care about you” then said goodbye. What a time suck.

Tesla then canceled our car because we couldn’t confirm the delivery date on the app (or speak to a human on the phone, or by email or text, because the company is now short-staffed).

Pre-layoffs, I was working with an ownership loyalty advisor based in Fremont, but that person stopped replying to me when the cuts started. In desperation, I sent that person multiple emails and texts. (Everyone in this article is anonymous to protect their privacy – and their jobs.) The loyalty advisor finally surfaced via text, apologized, and put the Model Y back into our account.

I restarted the leasing process and filled out the finance application on the app. It sat unapproved for days. So I called Tesla again and this time got a Las Vegas-based customer service rep on the phone. That person said that “it didn’t go through for whatever reason” and asked me to resubmit my application from scratch. That was a pain but whatever.

My finance application then sat unapproved, for days, right up to the night before we were due to pick the Model Y up in Paramus. The customer service rep said that finance is short-staffed and overwhelmed with applications, thanks to the new 0.99% APR financing offer on Model Ys. The rep in Las Vegas advised that we call Paramus in the morning and tell them we can’t come because finance hadn’t approved our leasing application.

I woke up early the next morning to see in the app that Tesla Finance had approved our application overnight. I clicked on “accept” and was repeatedly rewarded with a 500 error message. I just. Couldn’t. Complete. The transaction. [Silent scream.]

Since we had approval, we quickly took off for New Jersey. We were in Massachusetts when the Las Vegas customer service rep called me in response to my text pleas for help. I told that person that approval had gone through at 1:30 am and they said, “Yeah, they’re having to work really long hours to keep up, they’re overwhelmed.”

The customer service rep pushed my lease terms acceptance through, with my permission, and then I finally – finally! – finished the leasing process on the app. A snippet of a convo the rep and I had:

Me: Have layoffs left you all short-staffed? Has it affected morale?

Tesla customer service rep: [silence] Um… this is a recorded line.

Me: So I’m just going to take that as a yes.

Rep: [nervous giggle]

We arrived for our 3 pm appointment. The Tesla Center reps were completely open about how layoffs have affected them and wanted me to share what they said:

We were left alone here [no layoffs] because we’re a major distribution center. But Springfield [NJ] got wiped out. Sometimes some of us go down there to help them.

We want you to share that everyone’s morale is low. We are overworked and understaffed, and we feel sad for our friends who were our colleagues who lost their jobs. This has been really, really bad.

The in-person Model 3/Model Y swap was seamless and the person who helped us do that was great. In fact, every person – once I could get them on the phone – was helpful and knowledgeable. There just aren’t enough of them.

Electrek’s Take

I made the decision to once again spend my hard-earned money at Tesla. Elon’s layoffs made the entire process stressful and unpleasant because there weren’t enough people to assist. These layoffs have not only affected morale, they’ve seriously harmed customer service quality, and thus the customer experience.

The Tesla staff we dealt with are professionals that have been thrown into a situation where they’re basically trying to spin gold out of straw. It’s not their fault.

It should have felt celebratory, picking up the Model Y, like it did three years ago with the Model 3. I then wrote about my wonderful experience, and to my delight, Elon retweeted my story. This time, I feel exhausted, sad, and disappointed.

I told my Electrek colleagues about my experience. Jamie reminded me of his recent post where he pointed out that Elon is “currently trying to convince shareholders to give him $55 billion – enough to pay the 14,000+ employees he’s laid off six-figure salaries for ~40 years.”

Fred initially expressed concern that people underestimate the impact of the layoffs. So I asked him to elaborate on his thoughts. He explained:

Layoffs are always brutal, but Tesla’s latest round of layoffs were especially brutal.

Some employees drove long commutes to work to realize their credentials were revoked, some worked entire shifts only to get home to realize that they had received a personal email telling them they had been fired midway or even prior to their shifts. Some were fired to make an example of their team and boss for pushing back against further layoffs.

For those who remain, those laid off were their friends who were treated like that. It shakes your belief in your employer. That’s when company morale takes a real hit. 

Then, your friends find other jobs and they let you know about them, where they can still contribute to the mission to accelerate sustainable energy with better conditions and no pigeon CEO. That creates another hit to morale, and an extended exodus of talent.

More than once in this chaotic process I thought about abandoning Tesla and leasing an EV from another automaker. The only reason I stuck with the Model Y is because I was already in pretty deep, the Model Y is a great deal right now, and, well, I love driving Teslas. I’m really down about it all, but I’m not out. Yet.

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