Elon Musk may have a rat problem.
Fans of the South African billionaire’s electric cars say rats, mice and rodents are chomping down on their Teslas. And despite having dropped tens of thousands of dollars to buy the pricey vehicles, Tesla refuses to cover the damage
Sarah Williams, a 41-year-old physician who lives in Manhattan and uses her Tesla to commute to work in the Bronx, told the Post of an alarming incident when she took her 2018 Model 3 into Tesla’s Paramus, NJ, dealership in mid-May after her air conditioner had stopped working.
"They opened the glove compartment and a rodent fell out," she said. "It’s crazy."
The pest apparently found its way into Williams’ Tesla and gobbled through several internal wires that were insulated with soy rather than oil, which critics claim makes them more appealing to rodents.
When Williams — who paid $59,200 for her car — complained, the company refused to help. The repair has taken more than a month, and estimated costs have soared over $5,000, she said.
Despite repeated promises that the pricey vehicle will be ready soon, Williams was unable to pick up her Tesla at the time of this publication — almost two months later.
"Most auto manufacturers use the soybean vs. oil in their wire insulation for newer vehicles because it is less expensive and better for the environment," Tesla Service Advisor Jose Solis wrote in an e-mail to Williams that she shared with The Post. "The use of this material would not be considered a ‘defect’ in design or use… Considering there are too many factors outside of Tesla’s control we cannot cover this under a warranty or repair."
Solis is right that it’s not just Telsa.
Automakers have been getting slammed for years with complaints of their allegedly rat-friendly soy-based wiring. And like Tesla, they have all refused to cover the damage, claiming that rats chewing on car innards is the result of nature and therefore not their problem.
"It is a long-established fact that rodents are drawn to chew on electrical wiring in homes, cars or anywhere else they may choose to nest," Honda told the Chicago Sun-Times in June about an Illinois man’s efforts to bring a class-action case against it.
Tesla so far only appears to be unique in having escaped legal action tied to its use of soy materials. But that could change as complaints about rats in Teslas appear to rise along with the popularity of the brand, now valued at $632 billion.
Toby Bateson, a UK-based inventor who came up with a product designed to keep rats out of vehicles, said his company has seen special interest from Tesla drivers.
"We’re getting a lot of inquiries form Tesla owners because they seem to be vulnerable to the problem," he said, adding that his company has been contacted by about 150 Tesla owners with rodent issues over the past year.
Bateson sells a product called the RatMat, which he describes as a "horizontal electric fence" that keeps rodents from entering vehicles. In New York, the RatMat is distributed by a Kips Bay company called HoneyDoBoys, which charges about $1,500 to $1,700 for a single parking spot-sized system, the company’s owner, Paul Turzio, told the Post.
Bateson said that in addition to wiring damage, some Tesla owners had also told him their brake cables were chewed by rodents "to the point of the car becoming unusable."
Other Tesla owners who have complained of rats include a user of the Tesla Motors Club forum who griped that his 5-month-old electric vehicle went "haywire" after a mouse chewed through the coolant hose, which may also be made from soy-based materials, although its unclear if this is the case for Tesla.
"Apparently this is not uncommon, especially with electric cars," the user lamented.
And this year, an apparent Tesla owner complained on Reddit that his brand-new Model 3 was un-drivable just two weeks after it was delivered due to rat damage. Several other users have complained about damage from mice and squirrels on the forum as well.
The Post did not immediately receive a reply to a request for comment from Tesla, which is owned by Elon Musk, who went by the nickname "Muskrat" as a child, according to a 2009 New Yorker profile.
The complaints come as concerns about rats have risen generally.
The number of rodent complaints to New York City’s 311 hotline surged by 80 percent in March as the economy reopened to 2,906 — over and above even March 2019 levels of 2,395, Bloomberg recently reported.
One reason may be that rats were forced to change their habits during the pandemic when their normal sources of food dried up, including by moving into emptied-out office buildings, according to Pest.co.uk.
We are gearing up for a busy year in 2021," Jenny Rathbone of Pest.co.uk said.
Meanwhile, more Tesla’s are being introduced to rat-infested areas like the Big Apple. At least one Model 3 is currently in use as a yellow cab — and hundreds more are expected to enter service in the coming years, according to Business Insider.
Williams says she would not recommend any other New Yorkers buy Teslas until the company rodent-proofs its vehicles.
"For me, if I’m going really fast on the highway and I reach for something in my glove compartment and a rat crawls out, it could be a catastrophe," she said. "Who cares if you have this great technology if a rat is in there eating the wires?"