When YouTuber Tyler Hoover’s Tesla Model S P85 battery stopped holding a charge, he teamed up with right-to-repair advocate and Tesla hacker Rich Benoit to fix it. The car’s Kelly Blue Book value was about $23,000, and Tesla wanted about $22,000 to replace the battery. Benoit fixed it for about $5,000.
After Benoit published a video about the repair, Tesla fans on Twitter descended to tear the thing apart. They accused Benoit of lying about what Tesla would charge for the repair and said that his repair probably wouldn't last a year.
Benoit has hit back against his critics in a response video detailing why they’re wrong.
At the center of the controversy is what Benoit called a visual aid he used in the first video. According to Benoit, Hoover took the car to Tesla and was quoted a price of $22,000 to replace the battery. As he said this in the video, an invoice for a completed repair for a Tesla battery on a Model S flashed across the screen. Identifying details were redacted but the date was from 2019.
Tesla fans pulled this still image out and pointed to it as evidence that Benoit had lied about the cost of the repair. Some even claimed he’d doctored the receipt to make it look more expensive than it was. “The Tesla community insisted that since this was not the actual invoice, the price was not real,” Steven Salowsky, the Management Head of the Rich Rebuilds YouTube channel told Motherboard in a statement. “We may joke around constantly—but one thing we won't do is stretch the truth.”
In his follow up video, Benoit provided more evidence that the battery would, in fact, cost around $20,000 to replace. There are multiple forum posts on Tesla discussion sites where owners complain about the price of battery replacement. All predate the video. One user even posted a receipt for a battery replacement in November of 2020. The initial cost was about $20,000.
Tesla also runs an online parts catalogue where prices are available to registered repair shops, but not to the general public. Benoit has an account and posted screens showing what the battery costs for a Model S. It’s $22,500.
Tesla did not respond to Motherboard’s request for comment. Three separate Tesla service centers would not confirm the cost of replacing a battery, saying they would need to see a physical car or receive a VIN number to quote a price over the phone.
Benoit and his team are adamant that around $20,000 is what Tesla charges to replace the battery on a 2013 Model S. “We made this video, and last week's video, to emphasize the importance of Right to Repair, and why in the quest for sustainability, even Tesla needs to find better practices,” Salowsky said. “$22,500 to replace a battery is not in that camp, and it's severely problematic that the company forces one to buy new instead of repair.”
Benoit is a Tesla fan. It’s why he works on cars. According to his latest video, he even owns stock in the company. What he wants is for Tesla customers to have a choice when it comes to repair. “I acknowledge and support people’s right to choose,” Benoit said in his new video. “So let’s do this. If a customer is dissatisfied, we will do what it takes to fix it. Just like any respectable company does.” Benoit said that, should a car he’s worked on fail, he will ship it off to a repair company of the customer’s choice and pay for everything.
“Here’s why that solves everything,” Benoit said in the video. “It’s good for the customer to get their car fixed, it gives Electrified Garage a chance to learn, and it brings attention to other third party repair shops...to me, it’s about customers having a choice when it comes to servicing. Everytime a small repair shop fights, Tesla sits back and laughs at us.”
“I did research for hours just to make sure I was in the right,” Benoit told Motherboard over the phone. “I’m all for right-to-repair and people having options to fix their cars...when people argue from afar, you can’t tell who’s who. When you argue with fools, you can’t tell who’s right and who’s wrong. I don’t want to argue at all.”
Update 9/21/21: This story has been updated with a comment from Rich Benoit.