By Tim Higgins
Gus Schmidt was so excited when he received his Tesla Model 3 sedan in August that he tweeted a photo of himself and his wife grinning next to the electric car. Six weeks later, the thrill was gone.
The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., resident damaged his bumper in a low-speed collision and then had to wait three months for the repair shop to get the spare parts from Tesla and fix his car. The unusually long wait for a repair underlines a drawback of being a Tesla customer. The upstart car company has created a coveted luxury brand but is still learning some of the basics of the auto business.
Tesla /zigman2/quotes/203558040/composite TSLA +4.41% has cranked up its Model 3 production in recent months, enabling buyers like Schmidt to get their vehicles after long waits. But as Tesla’s U.S. sales approach those of luxury auto makers like BMW AG /zigman2/quotes/209548467/delayed DE:BMW +0.31% and Daimler AG’s /zigman2/quotes/205332368/delayed DE:DAI -0.77% Mercedes-Benz, it has encountered new logistical problems, from delivery and servicing of a growing fleet to balancing supply and demand.
Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk has acknowledged some of the operational challenges, saying on a recent conference call that his No. 1 priority this quarter is to improve the service of its cars. Getting the logistics right is especially crucial this year given Musk has said Tesla will bring down the price of the Model 3 from its current $42,900 base sticker price to the long-promised $35,000 threshold to reach mainstream buyers.
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