Man Puzzled When His Totaled Tesla Comes Back Online in Ukraine

Crash Course

While it's customary to hear about Teslas crashingburning, or exploding, hearing about one that seems to have come back from the dead is another thing entirely.

In a now-viral Twitter post, CNBC executive editor Jay Yarow wrote of his puzzlement after his Model X, which he'd crashed and totaled in the US, blinked online again in Ukraine — yes, the same country currently in the throes of a brutal land war. What's weirder: whoever was driving it was using the journalist's Spotify account to listen to Drake.

As CNBC notes in its reporting on the strange incident, Yarow totaled the car at the end of 2022 and, like many people whose cars have crashed, sold it for parts. He only discovered that it was cruising around war-torn Ukraine after he began getting notifications to the Tesla app, which he still had downloaded on his phone.

In interviews, security experts and parts salespeople told the business news outlet that internet-connected cars — by no means exclusive to Tesla — can indeed pose security risks for their former owners, even if the car in question is totaled like Yarow's.

CNBC found that its executive editor had sold the totaled Model X to a junkyard in New Jersey that works with the online auction site Copart, which specializes in selling "salvage titles" issues when wrecked cars are determined by insurance to be a total loss. It's not uncommon, it turns out, for those vehicles to ultimately end up getting fixed up and shipped to other countries — as Carfax Europe noted in a 2021 report on salve title imports, more than 90 percent of the cars imported into Ukraine have salvage titles.

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Although neither the site nor the junkyard confirmed that it was sold to someone in Europe or Ukraine, experts who spoke to CNBC said it would have been pretty simple for the car to end up there.

"Cars go to the repair shop or junkyard," Mike Dunne, a former General Motors executive who now runs the car consulting firm ZoZoGo, told the outlet. He added that such cars "then find their way to a second market and then are suddenly being shipped overseas."

Yarow told his employer that after he totaled his car, Tesla instructed him via email to disconnect his account from his car. It's unclear from this report whether he actually followed the instructions, though it seems clear, at least, that he didn't disconnect his Spotify.

Data gleaned from a Spotify account probably isn't that huge a deal, but nevertheless, having cars connected to the internet is going to cause some weird problems — even if it's just getting the jumpscare that your former car is driving through Ukraine with their woes.

Updated to clarify details around salvage titles.

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