Are Tesla taxis a tragedy? Dutch taxi company demands 1.3 million euros in damages
“We’ve never had as many problems as with Tesla” (Tofik Ohoudi) Faulty vehicles, incorrect odometer readings and poor service: for one of Tesla’s biggest Dutch customers, enough is enough. Bios-Groep, which uses around 70 Tesla cars as taxis at Schiphol Airport, is now demanding compensation for damages.
Things are unusually quiet at the Dutch airport Schiphol. And it’s not just the pandemic that is causing dozens of black Tesla taxis, which normally ferry large numbers of people back and forth at Schiphol Airport, to stay switched off in their charging bays. According to branch manager Tofik Ohoudi, the real problem actually lies with the taxis themselves. He claims the vehicles have a range of defects, from faulty power steering to broken control arms. And while there is hope that passengers will return to airports next year, the only solution for the poor quality of these Tesla vehicles seems be filing a claim for 1.3 million euros in damages – and placing an order for five Audi e-trons.
Six years ago, it had seemed like a match made in heaven: together with Schiphol Taxi, Bios was awarded an eight-year licence to enable zero-emission driving at Schiphol, thus becoming part of the world’s first fully electric airport. And as part of the project, in 2014 Bios purchased 72 Tesla Model S cars for a cool 5.7 million euros.
Tesla taxis fall short of their supposed range
As part of the agreement reached with Tesla, the taxis’ batteries had to last for at least 400 kilometres, otherwise they wouldn’t have been permitted at the airport. According to Bios, Tesla claimed this range wouldn’t be a problem. As it turned out, the promised range of more than 400 kilometres proved too much for the Teslas. “Our taxis never made it that far,” said CEO René van der Veer. Further to a complaint, Tesla allegedly replied that Bios was using the vehicles too intensively.
There were also problems with the odometer – which can be particularly bothersome if you’re running a taxi company. In at least seven of the taxis, the trip summaries from the on-board computer, which taxi drivers are required by law to keep, do not match the reading on the dashboard. This could get them into hot water with the tax authorities and the supervisory authority ILT, which may interpret this discrepancy as attempted fraud. To solve this problem, Bios claims that Tesla’s mechanics suggested simply adjusting the mileage, which is also a punishable offence.
Model S exchanged for Model X for a total cost of 7.9 million euros
In 2016, Tesla and Bios initially reached a compromise: some 64 Model S taxis were exchanged for the more expensive, newer Model X. This cost more than 7.9 million euros. On a positive note, it did result in the cars’ batteries finally delivering on that promise of 400 kilometres. However, Bios argues that there were so many problems with the vehicles that they spent more time being repaired than on the road.
While Bios initially had a dedicated contact person to deal with problems, from October 2018 the company had to contact an anonymous “front office”. Fast-forward to today, and according to Van der Veer Bios now has to use an online form to contact Tesla, where it can only hope that someone will respond – and all too often, no one does.
The company is basing its demand for 1.3 million euros in damages in part on the fact that, since 2019, Bios claims that Tesla has only allowed it to have two vehicles repaired at any one time. This, it says, has resulted in some taxis having to spend weeks out of action, even though Bios has to continue paying the drivers on its payroll.
What’s more, the exclusive agreement with Tesla reportedly left Bios with no alternative but to take action over the alleged faults, with Tesla apparently refusing to remedy them.
Tesla Claim Foundation
In its statement, Bios-Groep refers to the Tesla Claim Foundation – which since October 2020 has brought together some 200 people who claim to have trouble with their Teslas on a regular basis. It plans to decide in January whether to take legal action. Concerns about how Tesla might respond may well prove enough to dissuade the members from such a move.