It all began for Rich Benoit when he bought a flood-damaged Tesla for $14,000 in 2016. He spent the next six months taking it apart.
“I called Tesla and said, ‘I have this car I want to fix, can you sell me parts?’ And they said, ‘Well, you’re not authorized to do that so we’re not going to sell you parts,’” Benoit told Motherboard on the phone.
“That was my first experience with [Tesla],” he continued. “I decided, you know what, I’ll do it myself. I kept pushing forward.”
As he slowly repaired the Tesla, he documented the process on his YouTube Channel: Rich Rebuilds. Four years later, Benoit has 885,000 subscribers and a bustling independent repair shop in Massachusetts that specializes in Teslas.
Benoit was appalled by Tesla’s behavior, especially given that it is a “company that claimed to be so green and environmentally conscious,” he noted.
Meanwhile, Tesla’s cars “are sitting in fields with all these lithium ion batteries and all that lithium literally goes back into the Earth,” Benoit pointed out. “So it’s like: wait a minute. I thought you were being sustainable?”
Benoit, and others in the state of Massachusetts, have been fighting not just Tesla but other big car manufacturers who want to make it harder for everyone to fix their own stuff. In November, Massachusetts citizens overwhelmingly voted for expanded right to repair laws by a 75 to 25 percent margin.
“We want manufacturers to give the people who fix them the tools that they need to make sure that they can repair the cars,” Benoit said. “A lot of the manufacturers pushed back against this. That creates a monopoly. Having the free choice to have your car fixed wherever is something that we were fighting for for a while.”
The ballot initiative will give independent repair stores the same access to diagnostic repair tools and manuals as manufacturer-run repair stores. The landmark legislation will change the way Teslas operates, at least in the state of Massachusetts.
“I want to make sure the next generation of mechanics that repair [electric vehicles] can walk through an open door,” Benoit said. “I want to make sure that it gets easier and easier.”