With a base price of $70,000, the Tesla Model S isn’t exactly a car that one can rightfully describe as affordable. Still, there are ways for folks interested in owning a Model S to pick one up on the cheap. There is, of course, the option to lease. Another, and perhaps lesser-known option is to purchase an “inventory car”, effectively the car equivalent of buying a refurbished iPhone.
As a quick primer, an inventory car from Tesla is one that has been used for test drives, loaned out to Model S owners when their car needs to be serviced, or has been displayed in showrooms. In effect, purchasing an inventory car is akin to buying a car that while not exactly new, doesn’t necessarily have any serious signs of wear and tear either.
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In a remarkable blog post making the rounds online, a Florida man named Marty describes the frustrating consumer experience he had when trying to order an inventory car from Tesla. What makes Marty’s tale so interesting, if not utterly bizarre, is that it culminates with Tesla CEO Elon Musk allegedly ‘stealing’ the very Model S that Marty had ordered for himself.
As the story goes, Marty placed an order for an inventory Model S on December 24, dropping $4,000 as a deposit to secure the purchase. With an expected delivery date of January 8, Marty in the days prior became a bit concerned when he tried to call Tesla to hash out some details only to discover that he couldn’t get through to anyone.
By Wednesday, I was emailing my delivery specialist and calling. I didn’t know what was going on. By Thursday I was showing people at work how they don’t answer the phone or respond to my email. I was very concerned that I was paying over $100k for a car, and if this was the new sales process how terrible would the service be? Should I just cancel? How could I cancel if no one would even talk or communicate with me? Was there a problem in transit? Basically, I was stuck and frustrated, plus I had already paid for a deposit which covered the non-refundable transportation cost.
Flash forward to January 7 and the plot thickens. Marty gets a call from a Tesla representative and receives some strange news. It turns out that Tesla CEO Elon Musk had taken the inventory car that was earmarked for Marty and “was using it as his personal vehicle to test a new version of autopilot.”
Not only that, but the representative tells Marty that he can see how many times Marty called in, only to have his calls go unanswered. Marty’s conclusion? Tesla was avoiding him because they didn’t know how to handle the situation.
“I was floored,” Marty writes, “not only because my car had been taken by their CEO, not only that no one bothered to reach out or communicate with me, but they were actively trying to avoid me. I called and reached Kevin again on the evening of Jan 8. He explained my original car was so aftermarket at this point there was no way I would get it. Kevin began suggesting a different car that didn’t match what I was looking for, then suggested another car for $20k more.”
How did this strange saga play out? Well, Marty claims that he eventually cancelled his order and that Tesla agreed to refund him his deposit.
All in all, the story is quite incredible. Elon Musk stealing a customer’s Model S? How crazy is that?
Naturally, as Marty’s story began to go viral, a number of people were quick to try to poke holes in Marty’s claims. But, as it turns out, Marty’s story does in fact check out.
In an interesting update to the story, Electrek reached out to Tesla for comment. Tackling the issue, Tesla explained that the entire ordeal was the result of an unfortunate human error. Due to a mistake made somewhere along the line, one of Tesla’s test cars was accidentally made available for sale.
Tesla’s statement on the matter reads:
Unfortunately, due to human error, a car from our test fleet was offered for sale. We apologize that this led to a frustrating experience. We are working to ensure that it never happens again.
So did Musk steal a customer’s Model S? I mean, maybe technically that’s what happened, but the reality is that Musk simply took a car that should have never been offered up for sale in the first place. In other words, Musk had no inkling that his prized test car had been ‘purchased’ by a customer.