Working towards towards “zero servicing” – with vehicles never having to visit workshops unless a fault was detected – presents huge dangers for vehicle operators, says FleetCheck.

Peter Golding, managing director, was responding to recent news that Tesla is recruiting staff for a project called “Zero Service” under the banner, “At Tesla, we believe that the best service is no service.”

He said: “This sounds like a very Tesla idea where the vision is perhaps racing ahead of the technology, and where the reality is a lot more complex and likely to remain so.

“The fact is that, as all competent fleet operators know, employers are responsible for the safety of their employers behind the wheel of any vehicle being used on business. If Tesla says that its cars don’t need proactive servicing, where does the liability lie in the event of an accident caused by a mechanical fault? I’m guessing that they won’t want to admit cause.”

Peter said that precedents existed in the motor industry that could serve as a warning of lengthening the time spent out of workshops.

“Some years ago, when manufacturers introduced synthetic oils, they started to extend servicing intervals to 30-40,000 miles. However, most eventually moved them back to an annual servicing model and intervals of around 20,000 miles.

“A key reason was that this proved just too long for a vehicle to be out of a workshop because all kinds of other faults would develop in that time, some of them dangerous. Those cars and vans needed to be seen by technicians more regularly.

“Of course, we’ve also just undergone an official review where the existing MOT test system was retained, something that was very much a recognition of the need for regular checks.”

Peter said that he understood the Tesla argument would be that there was less to go wrong on an EV than and ICE car, and that future fault systems would recognise any issues, but remained unconvinced.

“For example, even with good diagnostic systems, you could have a largely unpredictable issue arise, such as the current pothole crisis. Cars with low profile tyres and sporty suspensions are crashing into sizeable holes in the road, sending shocks through the entire structure. Now, that might knock out the tracking but also the castor and camber, and affect wheel balance. There are a whole series of variables potentially affected.

“Any one of those issues could cause a car to mishandle or for potentially dangerous tyre wear to occur over time of a kind that it’s not easy for lay person to spot. How good would a fault tracking system be at spotting those errors?

“It is, of course, entirely possible that the rise of EVs means that vehicles start spending less time in workshops but I don’t yet see any evidence yet to suggest that there should be fewer actual workshop visits. Safety should remain the number priority for fleets and that still involves vehicles being regularly checked by experts.”