Three Tesla owners from California filed a class action lawsuit against Tesla accusing the automaker of falsely advertising its electric vehicles’ driving range on a single battery charge.
Allegations Tesla exaggerates, falsely advertises its vehicles’ range
According to the complaint, filed August 2 in a California federal court, at issue is a key feature of electric vehicles: the distance they can be driven on a battery charge—comparable to a tank of gas—before requiring the driver to stop and recharge. In fact, the lawsuit claims, “when a consumer visits Tesla’s website to view any of Tesla’s various electric vehicle models, ‘range’ is the first listed feature advertised among other key features.” Yet, Tesla alleged marketed its vehicles with “a grossly overvalued range”—in some instances, 26% over the actual average range of such vehicles.
As further alleged by the Plaintiffs, each Tesla sets a suggested charge limit—an upper limit to stop charging the battery, e.g., 80%. A consumer can manually override this charge limit, but Tesla recommends consumers not do so and only charge to 100% sparingly. “In fact,” the plaintiffs claim, “Tesla’s chief executive officer, Elon Musk, suggests that owners should only charge to 90% or 95% when necessary.” In turn, they claim, this charge impacts the total range, as Tesla’s advertised range for its vehicles is based on a full charge—which can make a difference of hundreds of miles. “Effectively, based upon Tesla’s suggested charge limits, Tesla vehicles cannot reach the total ranges Tesla advertises,” argue the plaintiffs.
Tesla “Diversion” Team
The lawsuit claims that in response to complaints and service appointments about the range concerns, Tesla create a special “Diversion Team” tasked with handling these complaints. However, the plaintiffs contend, this team was tasked with “diverting” customers away from service appointments, and “would simply cancel any service appointment that was nominally related to concerns over a vehicle’s range.”
Instead, the complaint claims, the Diversion Team would run remote diagnostic on that vehicle, call the customer to explain Tesla’s advertised range of was a “prediction” and not an actual measurement, and explain the vehicle’s batteries naturally degrade over time, reducing the vehicle range. Tesla also allegedly updated its mobile app to disallow any consumer voicing concern over their vehicle’s range from scheduling a service appointment, only allowing them to ask that a Tesla representative contact them—with such complaints then routed to the Diversion Team.
The named plaintiffs allegedly ordered a 2022 Tesla Model Y Performance vehicle, a 2021 Tesla Model 3 Long Range Vehicle, and a 2022 Tesla Model 3 Long Range vehicle affected by the range issue. They seek to represent all persons in California who purchased a new Tesla Model 3, Model S, Model Y, and Model X vehicle.
The lawsuit claims Tesla is liable for breach of warranty, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and unjust enrichment, as well as violation of California’s consumer, false advertising, and unfair competition laws. They request remedies including an award of damages and attorney fees.
Tesla has not yet responded to this recently-filed complaint. However, it is seeking dismissal of another proposed class action lawsuit, Bui-Ford et al. v. Tesla, Inc., d/b/a Tesla Motors, Inc., that alleges its software updates for Model S and X vehicles deplete the battery and reduce driving range.
The case is James Porter, et al. v. Tesla, Inc. d/b/a Tesla Motors, Inc., case number 3:23-cv-03878, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.