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My Painted CPO

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Active Member
Feb 13, 2013
The car is mechanically fine. The A-battery charges to 265, and Tesla was generous with shop time and money for things like wheel refinishing, an MCU, rotors and tires. Are these rotors ever thrown away for actual wear? It isn't a great story in the end, however. So, read on only if you wish. After a second conversation with the regional manager, I don't currently expect my request for a buyback will be honored.

I'm on the East coast, was given the same "as new", and "perfect", language about Tesla's CPO program and, after having some questions ruling out paint fade answered by the Owner Adviser, we ordered a CPO from CA.

  • While buying online, a box opens up asking if I had questions/concerns/special instructions. I wrote Tesla, since this was a sight/unseen process, to "please, if there are any concerns about the finish, to go over them and send pictures before it gets placed on a truck". I wasn't concerned about parts that could be replaced, and I had already reconstructed the VIN from the last five digits, in order to get a clear Auto-Check.
  • The Boston Owner Advisor calls me, and tells me they need a deposit, for $1,500 in transport fees, on top of the initial deposit. I knew about this, and understand about not wanting to mess around with transport and travel fees on bad transactions. I’ve flown to 4 states to buy cars in the past and respect the elevated burden such costs place on a smooth transaction.
  • The car arrives for delivery to me, on May 29th. I show up and can tell something is up with the right rear. Very dull clear coat, as if a compound had taken it down. Everything else looks great. I go in, planning to bring up the rear. I'm told I am the first MA recipient of a CPO.
  • I was there with my trade. We go over some things and then head outside where the car was brought. I bring up the right rear, and nobody affirms what I see for about 5-10 minutes. I say “doesn’t ?look? painted, because the color is so close”. I turn to them. They let me stew. After I suggest some other detailer got it wrong by compounding some abrasive on the original paint, Tesla’s detailer agrees with me, “looks like somebody missed a step”. The Delivery Specialist says, “It doesn’t matter what I see. It matters what you see”. I don’t want to be difficult, but addressing this as the single due-bill item was the least I felt I had to do. A contingency is brought up to have their body shop look at it, with their inserting that they would paint it. As mentioned, at the time I did not think this is where things were going, and I mostly wanted the approval of a body shop that I was correct, a buff, we're done. I sign.
  • Get home, feeling like I can save Tesla the trouble, I order some detailing tools and a paint gauge. If someone took the clear down, I don’t want to risk hitting paint if it’s thinned out too much. The paint gauge comes in, and things get worse. It turns out Signature Red and probably other metallic Signature colors are up to .3-.4mm thick. The dull area, and other areas of the car registered .2mm. Things get worse, again, when better light shows the front door forward, had been masked off, judging by the contrast of rear, to the front passenger door. I don’t want to touch a finish with half its thickness gone. So, I defer until the due-bill, for an inspection by Hollis Auto Body.
  • Once there, they walk up to the car and say it’s been painted almost immediately. They also later tell me the front was painted. No gauges necessary. At the time, I was focused on where it was worst. It was an orange peel, created from “die-back”, they suspected. In sum, the right rear quarter panel, rr door, rf fender, hood line, hood, and left front fender have all been painted. With this affirmed, I initiated a request for a buyback. I was in a totally different situation than a detailer’s gaffe.

As said above, at the time the color looked like it hadn’t been painted. Tesla tells me paint fits within their definition of “refurbish”. Fifty, or sixty, percent of the car doesn’t matter. I heard, “paint is like a part”, etc. I don’t believe this, and have had the best Boston shops do enough cars to witness how, even if they can get close, they lack depth, fade, scratch more easily, chip or fail to adhere over time. I got deaf ears from Regional. There was never any acknowledgement of my single purchase instruction. A July 30th email to Jerome saw no reply. The company is currently pointing to the due-bill, offering to put a third paint on just that section.

I tried to avoid this situation before delivery and was ignored, but what burns me worse is that I effectively caught what I was most concerned about and am not getting ownership in return. My trust reduced my judgement. So, sorry to take to the internet about my own CPO experience. Maybe it will help reset expectations.

Lastly, the car still looks good. I'm sure at 10-20 steps, I can get a good picture for an ad that will disclose paint work. If Tesla won't take it back, I don't see how else to be fair to the next guy.

View showing clear coat failure


Tighter view showing what causes "dullness", from a distance
Orange Peel.jpg

Another gridline shot, showing the contrast of painted (left), original (right)

Weather stripping in the jamb shows the original black/cherry depth of Signature Red (on right), versus thinner (left)


Last two pictures show how surface and depth issues carry around to the front, and hood.
The parts that bother me about this story:

1. A CPO program that delivers cars sight unseen properly should be held to very high standards.

2. An owner who has calmly and methodically followed the steps outlined in OP should be given favorable consideration. The more so given that the CPO program is new and one should expect bugs to be worked out in the process; in the selection and training of staff; in customer education and communication (e.g., setting customer expectations); and in the product.

3. Email to Jerome on July 30 may have fallen into a bit bucket; as described elsewhere, Jerome may be in the middle of a transition.

4. I am forced to wonder whether the CPO staff and/or other individuals in the chain of @3mp_kwh's story are more-or-less Tesla originals, people imbued with a Silicon Valley mentality even if they came from the auto industry; or from later hiring rounds, which seem to have brought over more auto industry staff with more of a "traditional" auto industry mindset.

3. Email to Jerome on July 30 may have fallen into a bit bucket; as described elsewhere, Jerome may be in the middle of a transition.

Jerome is on leave until the end of the year, at least that's what I read was announced at one of the shareholder meetings.

OP, MA has used car lemon laws. I don't believe it applies to cosmetic defects though...
I am sorry to hear that 3wp_kwh is experiencing some of the very same problems I outlined in my experience here: My CPO (and disappointments) Experience

It is sad that Tesla is not standing behind these vehicles and setting the wrong expectations with the customers. As someone said in my thread, if two sections needed to be touched up/repainted (one buffed out, the other needed repaint), the third section found shouldn't be the customer's problem. I can totally picture 3wp_kwh's car getting the one section repainted to only find another paint failure next month and being forced to pay for it out of pocket like I am with my car. I am not surprised s/he wants a buyback on the car.
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These stories are terrible. I have bought at least a dozen CPO BMW, MB and Porsches - nothing like this has ever happened so I trust the process completely. But it sounds like Tesla can't be trusted. Very disappointing indeed.
The take away for me, as a potential CPO buyer in active search, is that Tesla is not going to standby the paint and potentially prior body damage - as such a sight-unseen purchase becomes impractical.
If Tesla want to reassure buyers, they have to stand behind the vehicles they put in this program, and start rejecting those that don't meet the sales staff publicity "like new" claims.
The easy way being to guarantee that if you have a car shipped in, that a paintshop of your choice will not find repaint, body repair or incorrect application of protective coats - after all that would be easy if the process did live up to the sales pitch.
They don't have to extend the warranty, just offer that assurance on receipt.

Nige ...
My wife and I have been considering CPO and the local Tesla staff assure us that they wouldn't let us leave with a CPO car we weren't happy with. I explained to them our requirement to personally see the car before being committed to the purchase to ensure there are no deal breakers, but we nonetheless would be willing to pay for transport regardless. Though I'm not sure I got a firm answer on that. We could use some clarification because if we can't inspect it personally before committing to purchase a car from another location, then we will buy plane tickets and fly out to see the car first. We need to know whether that is really necessary or not.
I'm curious if the previous owner disclosed to Tesla that there was paint work (or if they discovered it anyways), and if Tesla then reduced the cost of the offer. Even further, did Tesla then price that into the CPO sales price or just sell for the same as a similarly equipped MS with no paint work would have gone for.

I've taken a $5K+ hit on an appraisal for a car having paint work--and it wasn't a Tesla, so I can imagine the hit would be way worse. I'd be asking them to take it back, as well.
My take away is any none salvaged Model S is qualified for CPO. I believe majority of the CPO cars are in great condition, it's not because Tesla high standard of selecting CPO cars, it is simply because the previous owner took care of their Model S when they sell back to Tesla.
The take away I get from your story is....

"When buying any CPO car, personally inspect it first."

Is that where you are now? BTW, are you returning the car to Tesla?

I did inspect it, and found the problems that went into a contingency. They're refusing a return. Where Tesla believes it beat me was when they inserted "we will paint" into the due-bill. Even though I gave them the benefit of the doubt, thinking it was a detailer's error, that was the moment I needed "will accept return if found to be painted".

Right now, I don't think the gesture to paint was out of kindness. It was meant to be binding, to protect them from having to own a higher standard.
These bad experience CPO stories give me a lot of pause about buying used from Tesla.

As a shareholder, I find it absolutely infuriating.

Not only do they need to make it right, people should be losing jobs over this kind of thing.

I get that CPO is like new but not the same as new. But how hard is it to do a paint thickness test as part of certifying the car before you list it as a Certified Pre Owned?

Or maybe they should just change the name from Tesla CPO to Tesla's As Is Used Car Program.
If you are going to buy a CPO car , buy one that is local. After all, they are used cars. Expecting Tesla to ship you a CPO and expecting it to look like new doesn't make much sense.
If you are going to buy a CPO car , buy one that is local. After all, they are used cars. Expecting Tesla to ship you a CPO and expecting it to look like new doesn't make much sense.

It makes sense because you can expect that from other premium manufacturers and Tesla "advertises" their CPOs as like-new and thoroughly inspected/certified/reconditioned. Sadly, there seems to be no checks in the process to make sure it was actually done as it moves from one SvC to another, and the later SvCs seem powerless to actually fix the issue. So yes, buying local may be the best bet for now.
Expecting Tesla to ship you a CPO and expecting it to look like new doesn't make much sense.

I don't think anybody has the expectation of it looking like new. I think everyone's expectation for "Certified" means that they looked over the car and fixed any issues prior to the buyer receiving AND that the car does not have prior damage. That's my definition anyways..