Open Letter to Mr. Elon Musk

Tiburon, California (USA), November 1st, 2021

Dear Elon,

Let me preface my remarks by explaining that I am an experienced technology executive. I was Corporate VP for Motorola’s Latin American operations, was involved in two successful startups (one that IPO’d), and I now am a partner at two venture capital funds. I understand how hard it is to build a smooth–running business but also how critical stellar customer service is to create a successful business.

I am disappointed with the outcome of the solar roofing project I have undertaken with Tesla (I also drive a Tesla Model S). When I embarked on the project to replace my roof, I recognized that a new solar roof would be a very important undertaking because it would first provide me with shelter, and second allow me to generate my own, clean energy.

Since I placed an initial commitment with Tesla over 15 months ago (07/29/2020), my project advisors changed constantly: William was followed by Michelle, then Matt, followed by several others, and now Whitney, my present advisor. The project evolved slowly over the initial months, and several project advisors later, we settled on a suitable design that met my needs. The design we agreed upon would provide new solar roofs to two structures––my main house and the detached garage––and would include 4 Powerwalls. I picked this configuration because it was the one that would allow me to meet my future household needs since I eventually intend to replace all appliances and cars with electric ones.

The Tesla Solar Roof is an aesthetically pleasing alternative to conventional solar panels only if it performs as advertised

Over the ensuing months, I felt that Tesla ignored me and, as a result, I consigned the project to the back of my mind, believing it would never materialize because I had very little visibility into its progress. That lack of visibility was largely because I was forced to interface with Tesla via its incredibly user–unfriendly website and very long telephone holds. Furthermore, a sudden price increase put the selected configuration close to $150K, which was out of my price range. By this point, the total cost of the project had grown by almost 10x from the initial price quote of $16K given to me by William, my first Tesla Project Advisor (PA), back in July 2020.

By the end of this summer or early fall (2021), I received several calls within several days from different people at Tesla who had seemed to have developed a sudden interest in my account. One caller promised that it would be worth my while if I spoke with the new Tesla PA that been assigned to my account. This was when Whitney came into the picture as my current PA. At this time, I learned that I was given some kind of discount, enabling me to complete the project at my price target of $100K. Whitney was helpful in enabling me to reach that goal. Unfortunately, she failed to review exactly what the project entailed. When I saw that the system included 4 Powerwalls, I assumed that we were talking about the same design that we agreed to about 5 months prior (with a Tesla Roof on the two different structures).  Unfortunately, the Tesla website does not appear to allow customers to access their project histories (or at least I do not know how to do this).

Late September/early October, different Tesla personnel visited my house, climbed on top of my roof, and inspected the installation site. Chris, the installation coordinator, was one of the last to visit and called my attention to the fact that the detached garage was no longer included in the project plan. Given the disorganization I experienced firsthand, I responded with confidence that he must have an old copy of the plans, since the 4 Powerwall system design was the one I had selected and that included installations on both the main house and the detached garage.

Then the rain arrived, and the project start date was further postponed from October 18 to November 1. To my dismay, I noticed multiple leaks that I reported immediately, which I attributed on the number of Tesla personnel who had climbed and walked on my old roof.

Tesla’s response to my cry for help was to dismiss any sort of accountability for any rain leaks. Unfortunately, the ensuing deluge of last Sunday (10/24) significantly increased the intensity of these leaks. Furthermore, the leaks then damaged my television and the surround sound system mounted on my chimney (since a significant number of leaks were around my chimney). Furthermore, I was also informed that the project cost had increased by $26K, since, unbeknownst to me, the detached garage structure was removed from the project. Given imminent further rains this season, I was forced to find a roofer to immediately make temporary fixes to my old roof to prevent further leaks and damage.

By now I hope you understand the reasons for my taking steps toward cancelling project. I did not arrive at this point lightly, because, as an electrical engineer myself, I wanted a Tesla roof and all the benefits it is purported to yield. However, I do not believe you treated me as a valued customer, nor I have sensed any passion from your company to meet my expectations, let alone exceed them. On the contrary, your delays, constant changing of names and voices, poorly trained project advisors, fluctuating prices, et al have been constant sources of disappointment for my family and me. My prevailing concern is how Tesla will treat me post–installation regarding any roofing or energy problems, given that you are the only ones able to repair or fix any problems emanating from your installation, because you will be, as the American aphorism goes, ‘the only game in town’!

In closing, I would like you to answer this simple question: What from this initial 15 months of upsetting courtship, so fraught with errors and mismanagement, do you think merits us entering into a 25+ year relationship commitment (your warranty period)?

Carlos S. Baradello, PhD

About Carlos S. Baradello

Investor, thought leader, university professor, and advisor in areas of corporate innovation, born global entrepreneurship and venture capital investing.
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