The Scoop: Tesla faces its latest challenge: cold weather

Plus, Costco’s crackdown on membership cards; an employee’s dismissal shared on TikTok.

Tesla has faced a number of challenges in the public relations sphere over the past few years. It’s dealt with backlash because of the actions of its mercurial CEO Elon Musk and technical issues with its self-driving car that have led to multiple deaths.

But this last week, Tesla owners and stakeholders faced a new challenge — cold air.

According to a report by The New York Times, Tesla drivers across Chicagoland struggled not only to get their cars properly charged but even getting the frozen doors open.

One driver had to chisel away ice to get in their vehicle and found that their battery had been drained to nearly a third of its capacity in the cold weather.

“It’s kind of like, I don’t really want a Tesla,” she told the Times.

While Tesla’s batteries aren’t the only electric car power sources that can be drained in the cold, scenes of lines for charging points and drivers needing to call tow trucks because their pricey electric vehicles wouldn’t start on a cold day points to a less than stellar look for the world’s most popular EV maker.

Why it matters: Musk’s personality and issues with engaging in the public sphere aside, this is a big deal for a few reasons. First, Teslas are a big investment for their owners. With the lowest-priced Tesla starting at prices in the $45,000 range, drivers should feel confident that their car is going to start, regardless of what it’s like outside. Granted, even internal combustion engines can struggle in the cold, but more is expected of the newer, pricier technology.

Tesla does provide some guidance for drivers in cold weather though — the company says that taking steps like defrosting the car and conditioning the battery can make driving more reliable.

Now, not all Tesla drivers live in climates where they’re fighting blizzard-like conditions to drive. However, the fact that Tesla has guidance for these conditions shows that the company is aware of the issues. Will these public stories of people fighting their Teslas to charge and start in a Chicago snowstorm lead to a dip in sales? Purchasers are already wary of problems related to low range for EVs. This is likely to provide another obstacle that could have others looking to good old-fashioned gasoline.

Editor’s Top Reads:

  • Everyone’s favorite wholesaler is in the news again, but this time, it’s not for keeping their hot dog prices low. At Costco locations, members will now be asked for photo ID in addition to their membership cards. The wholesale giant explained the change, stating, “We don’t feel it’s right that non-members receive the same benefits and pricing as our members.” While this might be unwelcome news for Costco-card leeches (something this author is guilty of, admittedly), let’s take a look at the positive spin here. Costco identified an issue of fairness for their members and acted quickly and decisively to preserve the customer experience. And while Netflix’s similar move to crack down on password sharing was unpopular from a PR perspective, it scored big in the dollars department.
  • A former Cloudflare employee went viral after she shared a TikTok video of her dismissal. In the video, Brittany Pietsch repeatedly asks the group tasked with dismissing her why she’s being fired and why her manager isn’t on the call. Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince was one of the viewers of the now-viral clip. “We don’t always get it right,” he said. One of the last things a company wants is their dirty laundry aired by an aggrieved former employee. Organizations need to be aware that in today’s world, one little misstep can become internet fodder, and this bad look could impact hiring and public perception in the future. Assume everything is being recorded and could go on TikTok. Everything.
  • Remember that social media campaign a little while back in which Snoop Dogg claimed he was giving up “smoke”? While most people thought it was a little far-fetched that the West Coast rapper would ever give up weed, the entire campaign was an ad for a smokeless fire pit. While the ad was popular, it didn’t add to a lift in sales. The lesson here is that cleverness and a big-name celebrity aren’t enough to spur actual sales. Think of your customer rather than a splashy stunt, especially if you’re just starting.

Sean Devlin is an editor at Ragan Communcations.


One Response to “The Scoop: Tesla faces its latest challenge: cold weather”

    Amy Shirar Malelo says:

    Comments from a PR professional who owns a Tesla: My Tesla has performed far better in the cold than any of the gasoline cars I owned in the past. I open my Tesla app in the morning and warm my car to my desired temperature including the seats and steering wheel (and defrost as needed) before I enter the car. It’s amazing. Never have I had a problem with my battery draining in the cold. It’s just like when you know a storm is about to hit when you own a gas car. You prepare. You make sure you have enough gas. And, for a Tesla you make sure you have enough charge.

    I can not believe all the negative press I’m seeing in the news about Teslas. It’s like the media hates innovation and celebrates mediocracy. I would bet for every negative thing you would write about a Tesla there would be even more negative things about the gas car. Check out the Tesla Diva Facebook page. We all set the fake news straight (respectfully) with accurate talking points from people who own Teslas. Most of the troubles reported out of Chicago (which is where I live) were from user error.

    My Tesla has been a dream compared to any gas car I’ve owned. No engine or gas to worry about. I never have to go to a dirty gas station or a car repair shop. If there is ever a recall, it’s a simple software update to the car completed over wifi.

    My husband and I are both proud Tesla owners. Please make sure you have your facts right and interview savvy Tesla owners before publishing incorrect or biased articles. Let’s celebrate innovation, instead of tearing it down. Musk may have a different personality, but he’s a genius, launching rockets to the moon and coming up with innovations that can change our planet for the better. I would love to see the press and fellow PR professionals celebrating innovation not joining the bandwagon of mediocracy.

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