- Tesla buyers usually have 10 days to take delivery of their car once it’s finished at the factory.
- That becomes an issue, however, if the window overlaps with the end of a quarterly deadline for Tesla, current and former employees say.
- In the company’s rush to deliver cars by the end of the period, some customers get “unmatched” in favor of someone who can take the car sooner.
- Tesla on Wednesday reported its biggest sales drop ever, with the number of quarterly deliveries sinking 31% since the fourth quarter.
As Tesla rushed to deliver cars before the end of the quarter on Sunday, some buyers’ cars were offered to other customers who could take delivery of their vehicles sooner than the intended recipient.
Getting the keys into a buyer’s hands usually isn’t an issue, especially since buyers are typically eager to take delivery of their cars once ready, but that is put to the test at the end of the quarter as tight deadlines lead to high pressure inside the company.
For a small number of customers, Tesla’s 10-day delivery period, as designated in the contract, sometimes overlaps with the end of the quarter. When that happens, customers are told their car may be given to another buyer.
Current and former Tesla employees, speaking with Business Insider on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss internal practices, say the practice — known as VIN “unmatching” — is a regular part of life at Tesla. The issue first came to light in a viral Reddit thread last week.
“Generally speaking, as soon as the car arrives, we schedule the delivery,” one current employee said. “Most people are OK with that, but the ones who aren’t, for whatever reasons, are unmatched.”
“The sole focus at the end of the quarter is to check every car ‘delivered’ by whatever means necessary,” the employee said.
To be sure, customers will still receive the same model they purchase, though the VIN, or vehicle identification number, may not be the one originally assigned to them. In some cases, the current employee said, it could also result in a delay as customers are rematched.
A Tesla representative declined to comment.
Other current and former employees confirmed that the practice was typical at the end of quarters, when Tesla is known for all-hands-on-deck approaches to get cars out the door and into customer driveways. In emails seen by Business Insider at the end of March, CEO Elon Musk told all employees that their “primary priority” should be deliveries.
“This is the biggest wave in Tesla’s history,” Musk said in the email. “But it is primarily a function of our first delivery of mass manufactured cars on two continents simultaneously, and will not be repeated in subsequent quarters.”
When all was said and done, Tesla on Wednesday posted one its largest quarterly declines in company history, with deliveries falling 34% from the previous quarter.
“We had only delivered half of the entire quarter’s numbers by March 21, 10 days before end of quarter,” Tesla said in a press release Wednesday night. “This caused a large number of vehicle deliveries to shift to the second quarter.”
On Thursday, Elon Musk’s lawyers are set to head to federal court in New York for a hearing in the billionaire’s contempt-of-court case against the Securities and Exchange Commission.
More from Tesla’s first-quarter delivery struggle: