Tesla sued for false advertising after allegedly exaggerating EV ranges

The proposed class action accuses Tesla of fraud.

REUTERS/Mike Blake

Tesla is already facing the fallout from a report that it exaggerated EV ranges and tried to muffle complaints. Three owners in California have launched a proposed class action lawsuit accusing Tesla of false advertising. The trio claims their cars fell well short of their estimated ranges, and that they've had no success lodging complaints. The customers either wouldn't have bought their cars or would have paid considerably less for them, according to the suit.

The owners allege Tesla committed fraud, violated warranties and conducted unfair competition. If the lawsuit gets class action status, it would cover all people in California who bought a Tesla Model 3, Model S, Model X or Model Y. The plaintiffs are hoping for unspecified damages. Tesla has disbanded its communications team and isn't available for comment.

The lawsuit follows a Reuters report that Tesla began modifying EV ranges about a decade ago. Its cars would supposedly show inflated figures when fully charged, and would only start showing accurate numbers under a 50 percent charge. To head off complaints, the automaker is said to have created a "Diversion Team" that would persuade users to drop range-related support calls.

It's not certain that Tesla still uses these purported exaggerations. The Environmental Protection Agency did ask the company to trim its range estimates from the 2020 model year forward, and South Korea recently issued a $2.2 million fine over an alleged failure to adequately inform customers that EV ranges would drop in cold weather.

Tesla isn't alone in boasting EV range estimates that don't hold up in real conditions. An SAE International study found that electric cars tend to fall about 12.5 percent short of their advertised ranges. The report and lawsuit suggest Tesla's figures are less accurate than for other brands, however, and that the company may have tried to silence unhappy customers.