Back in March 2016, Elon Musk triggered every snowflake in America into action with the announcement of his 'affordable' Model 3 that would deliver at least 215 miles of driving, starting at just $35,000. Within a matter of weeks, pretty much everyone in the country who could afford to scrape together $1,000 managed to put down a deposit on a car they wouldn't be able to drive for a couple of years as if they were simply buying the latest version of the iPhone.
But while Tesla was all too eager to take in those $1,000 deposits, if you count yourself among the growing number of people who suddenly want their money back you shouldn't expect the return process to be quite as seamless.
As Wired points out today, while customers have been promised that their Model 3 deposits are refundable in 3 weeks and right up until their car goes into production, many are finding out that it's not quite that easy in reality. In fact, one customer interviewed by Wired, Shashank Chitti, has been waiting for his deposit for 2.5 months now and still has no idea when his claim will be rectified.
Fortunately, Tesla makes it easy to ask for your money back; the company’s website says deposit holders can cancel at any time. Per the company's Model 3 Reservation FAQ, “Refunds can take up to three weeks depending on your country of delivery.”
At least that's how it's supposed to work.
Shashank Chitti, who still has not received his refund, disagrees. "Tesla seems disorganized," he says. "Based on this experience and others that I've read about, it sounds like when things go well, owning a Tesla would be awesome — but they would be a nightmare to deal with otherwise."
Chitti cancelled his reservation on May 17, 2017. He says he was tired of waiting and frustrated by Tesla's lack of transparency. Yet more than two months later, he hasn't received his refund. "Every time I reach out I get the same explanation: They have a lot of cancellations to process, they'll prioritize my request, and that my refund should go out in the next batch," he says.
Meanwhile, Chitti's experience has hardly been unique as many customers have recently taken to Twitter to complain about similar problems with getting their refunds returned on a timely basis.
In a poll posted to the popular Tesla Motors Forum, a majority of respondents reported waiting more than a month to receive their reimbursement. On other message boards, claims of 5-, 6-, and 7-week waits are common, and many say they’ve held out even longer. “It has been three months,” wrote /r/teslamotors user UnDosTresPescao on Reddit on July 3. “I have called/emailed them several times over the last month and a half asking about status. Every time they ask for my address and say that a check will be promptly on its way. The check never comes.”
This seems as good a place as any to disclose that I, too, was once a Model 3 reservation holder. I cancelled my deposit in April, when an honest evaluation of my transportation needs forced me to concede that the last thing I need in life is a new car. Tesla took just shy of three months to refund my deposit, which I received soon after the company caught wind of me reporting this piece.
So, what's the issue? Apparently it's just a series of very unfortunate "system failures," "IT issues" and/or "database errors."
In email correspondence between Tesla and deposit-holders that WIRED reviewed, customer service representatives supplied a variety of explanations for late refunds. Two blamed a third-party error. Others said Tesla had received more reimbursement requests than it could see to in a timely fashion. Several stated that a "system failure," "IT issue," or "database error" within Tesla had interfered with the company's ability to process payments.
Of course, we're quite certain that the issue has nothing to do with the fact that the perpetually cash hemorrhaging company essentially managed to fund their business plan with a free $400 million dollar loan from customers and are now unwilling to part with their 0% financing.