Rich Benoit isn’t waiting around for Tesla to repair its customers’ cars—not when he can do it himself.
Benoit runs the YouTube channel Rich Rebuilds where he chronicles his adventures in repairing, upgrading, and modifying electric vehicles. His most ambitious project was successfully rebuilding a Tesla Model S that was totaled after being completely submerged in salt water. Now, he’s crowdfunding to open a repair shop that will service electric vehicles of all types and teach owners how to take care of their own cars.
Teslas are notoriously difficult to repair. The car manufacturer doesn’t authorize many independent repair shops and doesn’t make it easy for individuals to buy official replacement parts to do the job themselves. Unfortunately, the electric vehicle company can’t meet the demand for repairs. Tesla communities across the internet are full of stories of people waiting months for a mechanic to take a look at their vehicle.
Benoit wants to change that by opening up his own repair shop to push back against Tesla’s repair monopoly. “The goal is kind of a ‘safe haven’ for [electric vehicles],” Benoit told Motherboard in an email. “It’s a place where Teslas, or really any kind of other [electric vehicle], in or out of warranty, can come to get worked on, serviced and upgraded.”
To create that space, Benoit needs a repair facility, a warehouse to store parts and salvage vehicles, and equipment to do repairs and conversions. To create this space, Benoit is attempting to raise $200,000 via Indiegogo. So far, he’s raised $5,000.
Benoit loves Teslas, but he wants owners to have a repair shop that isn’t run or owned by Tesla, which routinely charges $175 an hour to work on its cars.
“Tesla is great but they are starting to become a slow-moving ship,” he said. “They can't keep up with the orders they have now for cars, or the service of the cars that they sell, so owners are suffering.”
Besides repairs, Benoit wants his shop to have a space to teach customers about their vehicles—adding another dimension to the already ambitious project.
“The number one question I get from people is how [electric vehicles] actually work,” Benoit said. “So we're going to dedicate a place in the shop where we have kids and adults come in to see how the cars are made, and we will also convert cars that run on gas to electricity.”
Benoit said he’s talked to Tesla employees who are ready to jump ship if he can get the money together. “I have three employees that currently work for Tesla that are willing to leave and work for the ‘startup’ because they believe in it,” he said. “They [want to leave]Tesla to join for the same reason they started working for Tesla—it’s something new, innovative, fast-moving, and an alternative to what’s currently out there.”
Tesla Motors did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Get six of our favorite Motherboard stories every day by signing up for our newsletter.