Tesla owners are reporting an increasing number of break-ins, with the company offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to arrests. The company says it’s unclear what is causing the increase in incidents.

Tesla owners are saying that their cars are increasingly targeted for break-ins. They say they’ve noticed more and more reports of people breaking into their cars, even though they’re not the only ones with them.

(KPIX 5) SAN JOSE — Break-ins have begun to increase as safety restrictions relax, according to Bay Area Tesla owner groups, and new and experienced drivers should take precautions to minimize their chances of being a victim.

“It seemed to get better during the epidemic, when we were told to hide in place. And now that things are reopening and returning to normal, there’s been a surge of interest,” said Kristine Boncato of Tesla Owners of East Bay.

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Primer Auto Glass co-owner Charles told KPIX 5 that business has been brisk. Primer is a Tesla-authorized repair shop that has performed over 50,000 repairs on electric vehicles, including several for the Model 3’s left and right quarter glass panels.

“Right now, this is the most frequent Model 3 repair,” Charles said.


A Tesla Model 3 with a damaged window. (CBS)

Thieves break the tiny triangle window and reach inside to unlatch and unlock the rear seat, allowing them access to the trunk.

“They search for a laptop, they seek for anything. Charles exclaimed, “Boom!”

In December 2018, Rick Reid, a Model 3 owner, went to his vehicle to discover the left quarter glass panel shattered. Although nothing was taken from the backseat, the repair cost several hundred dollars.

“It’s very irritating. It was aggravating, and I felt violated. Everything that happens when someone steals something from you,” Reid said.

Break-ins appeared to surge when the Model 3 was initially introduced, according to John, a co-founder of Tesla Owners of Silicon Valley.

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“It was very terrible in 2018 and 2019,” John added.

Tesla owners in Silicon Valley banded together and bombarded CEO Elon Musk with tweets demanding “Sentry Mode,” a feature that enables the vehicle’s cameras to capture surveillance footage.

Sentry Mode was launched soon after in February 2019, and the club attributed it with a decrease in reported break-ins among its 3,000 members in the South Bay.

“I believe a lot of individuals who were breaking into the vehicles have gotten wind that this automobile is providing a live stream all the time because of Sentry Mode. “It definitely still occurs, but Sentry Mode has been such a strong deterrent because it’s basically a stream that you can give over to the cops,” John said.

In addition to turning on Sentry Mode, the owners’ clubs suggest using stickers to alert would-be thieves of the high-tech function. To provide even more impact protection, a polyester film may be applied to the glass.

Another ostensibly effective deterrent is to leave the backseats down, exposing the empty trunk.

“However, you can dissuade as much as you can. “It’s a big problem in the Bay Area, and it’s not just Teslas,” Boncato said.

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Tesla did not reply to a request for comment from KPIX 5 on Monday.

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