Can Tesla’s ‘Alien Dreadnought’ Pull Off Model 3 Production Estimates?

3 months ago by EVANNEX 54

Tesla Model 3

A look at a white Tesla Model 3 production candidate

CAN TESLA’S ELON MUSK AND THE “ALIEN DREADNOUGHT” DO THE IMPOSSIBLE?

From the beginning, Tesla has set out not only to remake the automobile, but also the automaker. The California trendsetter has dispensed with many of the things that are considered staples of the traditional car business, including dealerships with high-pressure sales pitches (hurray!) and massive marketing machines with glitzy ads and free goodies for journalists (boo!).

This concept is not unique to Tesla – it’s a standard part of the disrupter’s playbook. Legacy industries spend much effort and money on things that were important decades ago when those industries were founded, but in many cases, advances in technology and changes in society have made those things unnecessary or even counter-productive.

Could it be that human factory workers are another of those outmoded concepts? Since Henry Ford pioneered the assembly line over a century ago, factories have gradually become more automated, and over the past couple of decades, that transition has shifted into high gear. Modern auto factories are showcases for robotic technology, which has vastly improved productivity.

*This article comes to us courtesy of EVANNEX (which also makes aftermarket Tesla accessories). Authored by Charles Morris.

The robotics revolution was well under way before Tesla came on the scene. Many consider Toyota to be the leader in terms of maximizing productivity through technology and efficient production techniques. The pupil has learned much from the master – Tesla purchased its Fremont factory from Toyota in 2010 at a bargain price, and the two companies worked together for several years, as Tesla provided battery packs for Toyota’s RAV4 EV.

“Toyota’s been quite helpful as we ramp up production,” JB Straubel told the SAE in 2013. “They’re among the best companies in the world in running a large-scale manufacturing enterprise. They have it down to a science and know what the pitfalls are.”

Tesla

Kuka robots do their work at the Tesla factory (Image: Tesla)

Today, Tesla’s manufacturing facilities are as technologically advanced as any in the world. Elon Musk has said that 542 robots were working on the Fremont line at the start of Model X production, and KUKA Robotics began installing 467 more in May. According to a recent Forbes article, production at the plant has increased by 400% since 2012. But, as always, Musk wants more – much more. He envisions an assembly line with no human workers at all.

“You can’t have people in the production line, otherwise you drop to people speed,” he told stock analysts last August. “So there will be no people in the production process itself. People will maintain the machines, upgrade them, and deal with anomalies.”

The factory of the future, which Musk calls the “alien dreadnought,” will debut with the start of Model 3 production, and Tesla hopes to have a completely human-free Version 3 up and running in a few more years. Elon is a keen reader of science fiction, and he surely has mixed emotions about unleashing this dreadnought on the world – factories that need no human workers have been a staple of dystopian parables at least since Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano, published in 1952.

Whatever the implications for human society, for Tesla, maximum automation may not just be desirable – as Forbes and others have noted, it may be a necessity. The company plans to produce up to 500,000 vehicles in 2018.  Current annual production stands at about 100,000. Clearly, this sort of growth isn’t going to be achieved by making a few incremental improvements – such a quantum leap is going to require remaking the production process.

Tesla’s Fremont Assembly Facility

Redesigning “the machine that makes the machine” is a top priority at Tesla. The company’s recent acquisition of Grohmann Engineering (rechristened Tesla Advanced Automation Germany) was one tangible step towards the goal. By Elon’s calculations, the fully automated dreadnought could improve production by five to ten times, just about enough to meet Tesla’s colossal production goals.

But what if his calculations are wrong? Yes, there are skeptics aplenty. Steve Funk, writing in Seeking Alpha, notes that there are constraints having to do with the size of the Fremont plant and the number of hours in a day. Funk has a deep background in automobile manufacturing, and claims to be quite familiar with the Fremont plant from its pre-Tesla days. He predicts that the company will be able to produce at most 230,000 units of Model 3 in 2018, well short of Tesla’s forecast.

Mr. Funk presents some cogent points. Tesla’s robots are the same ones used by other, more experienced automakers, which are not able to reach anything like the throughput numbers that Tesla is counting on. The Robotics Industries Association estimates that there are currently 265,000 robots at work in US factories, and Tesla is not the only company that works hard to exploit any opportunity for greater efficiency.

Tesla

Tesla Acquired Grohmann Engineering and formed Tesla Advanced Automation Germany, in part to help with the Model 3 production ramp.

However, before you bet against Musk and his merry men, consider again the statement at the beginning of this article. The Prophets of Palo Alto do not rely on conventional auto industry wisdom, but rather on “first principles” thinking, which emphasizes starting from a clean slate, free from pre-existing ideas. To put it another way, Musk and company don’t accept that anything is impossible unless the laws of physics make it impossible.

Is it possible for an assembly line to disgorge automobiles as fast as a human can walk, or battery cells “faster than bullets from a machine gun?” We shall see.

*Editor’s Note: EVANNEX, which also sells aftermarket gear for Teslas, has kindly allowed us to share some of its content with our readers. Our thanks go out to EVANNEX, Check out the site here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

54 responses to "Can Tesla’s ‘Alien Dreadnought’ Pull Off Model 3 Production Estimates?"

  1. Vexar says:

    I think Tesla can do it for the simple reason that they aren’t UAW workers still toiling around inside the factory. If that were the case, I’d believe the skeptic.

    1. agzand says:

      Currently Tesla has one of the worst production per employee ratios in the industry. It is porbably 10 times worse than GM/Ford. So I don’t get your point.

      1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        It gets rather tiresome reading the same ol’, same ol’ discredited Tesla-hating FUD.

        Tesla’s Fremont factory has a significantly higher worker-to-finished-car ratio than other auto assembly plants for two reasons:

        1. Tesla uses a lot more in-house production than other auto makers. So Tesla employees include a lot of workers that, were it another auto maker, would be employed off-site at a supplier’s factory.

        2. Tesla’s Fremont assembly plant has a second floor, much of which is used for work not directly related to making auto parts and assembling them. Cherry-picking FUDsters like to include those employees to skew their figures.

        “Figures don’t lie, but liars do figure.” — anonymous

        1. agzand says:

          I don’t hate Tesla, they have 33k employees and make 100k cars (3 cars per employee). GM has 215k employees and makes 10m cars (46 cars per employee). It doesn’t matter how many floors are in Tesla factory. Your statement is simply incorrect.

          1. Nix says:

            agzand — that math is a huge math fail too.

            You would have to add back in ALL the employees at ALL the Ford and GM dealerships in order to make a valid comparison, since Tesla hires those employees themselves.

            You are comparing apples to oranges.

            If you just total the number of employees and divide by number of cars, you simply aren’t even comparing the same thing at all.

            Worse yet, I’ve already explained this to you multiple times. How you can continue to repeat the same fallacies over and over and never learn points to it being willful ignorance on your behalf, not just a simple math failure on your behalf.

            1. agzand says:

              Even if you only count half of the employees in Fremont factory (3100), still Tesla only makes 30 cars per factory employee. Less than GM. Say whatever you want but the numbers just don’t support your case.

              1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

                Now add in all the employees at GM’s suppliers, the ones which make all the parts which Tesla makes in-house.

                Insisting that you’re doing an apples-to-apples comparison, when it’s actually an apples-to-oranges comparison, doesn’t support your claim that you’re not a Tesla basher.

                Whether or not you feel in your heart that you are a Tesla basher, you certainly are repeating FUD that is spread by serial Tesla bashers, who do so with the intention of damaging Tesla’s public image. If you persist in doing this even after the factual errors in your posts have been pointed out, then it’s hard to believe you are interested in either facts or objective truth.

            2. Doggydogworld says:

              NADA says new car dealerships in the US employ 1.1 million workers. At a similar ratio of roughly 1 store employee per 15.5 cars sold, almost 6,000 of Tesla’s employees would work at their stores. A much bigger factor is the ~15,000 who work i “energy” (mostly SCTY). That brings the non-store auto head count down to 10-12,000. That’s still only 8-10 cars per employee, much higher than the Big 3.

              Some of this is higher R&D, etc. Some may be Tesla making more parts in-house, though I’ve seen no evidence of that. A lot is just Silicon Valley mentality which values speed and “disruption” over efficiency.

              If Tesla ramps Model 3 output per Musk’s guidance without massively growing head count they’ll get close to traditional carmaker ratios.

              1. Doggydogworld says:

                Meant to say 8-10 cars/non-store auto employee is much LOWER than Big 3.

              2. Nix says:

                Doggy — I think you are getting closer, but still not quite there yet. (full disclosure, I haven’t done the full math myself either).

                I think this is very key in your comment:

                “If Tesla ramps Model 3 output per Musk’s guidance without massively growing head count they’ll get close to traditional carmaker ratios.”

                That’s the key right there. Tesla clearly has had to hire a significant amount of staff ahead of time for the Model 3, before a single car was built (engineering, testing, initial line workers, manual battery pack builders before that step is automated, etc).

                So the numbers you were working with are temporarily inflated until they go into full production with the Model 3. Because they reflect staff hired to build cars that haven’t been delivered yet.

                The next key part to understand is that Tesla is going into Model 3 production with just version 0.5 of the “alien dreadnought”, and it won’t be until mid-2018 that they reach full version 1.0 levels of automation. So the Model 3 hire numbers are heavily front-loaded until some time around mid-2018.

                Meanwhile, none of the other companies folks like to compare Tesla to are anywhere near doubling their production each year. It is a false comparison to compare a slow-growth company to a very high growth company with labor costs that proceed product production growth. The only way to make a valid comparison in the number of cars per person is after those people complete the ramp-up of the cars they have been hired to build. Otherwise it is just comparing ramp-up costs to production costs, which are not at all the same.

                Oh, and did I mention that they also own the company who builds the robots, so you also have to subtract out those folks if you want to make a comparison.

    2. trololo says:

      Develop our point please. It may be clear for you but it is not that trivial.

  2. La Frennia di Mamata says:

    What You mean is ., Can Musk Do The Impossible “AGAIN”. He was the 1st In the History Of Space & Rockets in the World as we Know it, to Recover and Re-land a main Rocket Booster UP RIGHT after shooting off into Space , then Re-Loaded it and did it again ., As Everyone(((the old washed Up Astronauts))) stood on the sidelines and said it couldn’t be done & criticized him to No End..l o l…Musk Will/Can do this in his slumber ..

  3. John says:

    I’ve seen firsthand the change in production speed from a manual process to a completely automated one. IF they designed the car from the beginning for rapid assembly automation, the kinds of goals they are aiming for are possible. Not easy, but possible.

  4. Loboc says:

    AI designs could easily increase robotic production by 10x. Car design specifically for machine assembly could 2x on top of that.

    I believe, Elon!

  5. Terry Lee says:

    Looking forward to 2018 – that production chart looks amazing.

    1. Terry Lee says:

      Hang on, why did the author removed that production chart subsequently after the article was posted!

      1. Jay Cole says:

        Sorry about that TL, when I was reviewing the story I was unsure about the usage rights…pretty sure it was ok, but we never want to put up a picture or story without proper attribution.

        Nutshell to those who missed it…sales were projected way up in 2018, (=

  6. Kdawg says:

    I don’t think they will make 500K vehicles in 2018. The numbers just don’t work out, but I’m OK with that. It’s good to have lofty goals, I’m just worried people will be upset if they *don’t* hit that number. More important to me is the simple fact that Tesla will be cranking out a lot of cars. If they hit 250,000 I’ll be more than happy.

    I think Elon should start building another assembly plant, or at minimum, expand the Fremont (NUMMI) plant, if there’s room that is.

    1. Nix says:

      The original claim Tesla put in their SEC filings, was having a target to reach a “PRODUCTION” rate of 500K Model S/X/3 cars combined per year by the end of 2018. This target wasn’t an actual “DELIVERY” guidance number, the same as when Tesla gave 2017 Q1/Q2 guidance of 47,000-50,000 units delivered to customers in those quarters.

      When that came out, the conventional wisdom was that meant they would ramp up to building around 10,000 S/X/3’s combined each week by Dec. 2018, and not actually building 500K cars total in 2018. With actual deliveries being less than the number built, because of the time gap between production and when each car is delivered.

      Since then things have been all over the place, with all kinds of different numbers being thrown around, but we still haven’t gotten actual official guidance on actual delivery numbers from Tesla yet. Not even for this year. We’ve only gotten a weird mix of Production projections for some months, and Delivery projections for other months.

      With all the shifting info between production numbers and delivery numbers, it is really hard to tell what actual deliveries are going to be.

  7. sven ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ says:

    This article is full of BS. Elon already backtracked and said that he is aiming to have the Model 3 production line to run as fast as the production lines of other major automakers, not “alien dreadnot” speed. Elon then said that the “alien dreadknot” and its increase in speed will be first incorporated into the Model Y production line, which will be built in a new factory.

    From Forbes:
    “A year ago . . . Musk was convinced that the former NUMMI factory in Fremont ‘could scale to a million vehicles.’ Add just a little ‘density and velocity,’ Musk told his many fans, and the old NUMMI factory, renamed to ‘Alien Dreadnought,’ would spit out cars 20 times faster than when Toyota owned the plant, Musk said. His many fans ate it up like loaves and fish, handed out at the feeding of the 4,000.”

    “Yesterday, Elon Musk’s mind about production was totally altered, be it by wine and Ambien, or the advice of experts. The Fremont factory, where Tesla managed to build a little over 80,000 units last year, is ‘bursting at the seams,’ Musk said. ‘There is just no room at Fremont,’ he continued.”

    “So the new Model Y plant, said Musk, ‘will be a new plant that we are going to figure out the exact location of.'”
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/bertelschmitt/2017/06/07/lucy-in-the-sky-with-ambien-teslas-elon-musk-at-new-highs/#12f952342892

    The Tesla hype machine and Tesla Kool-Aid dispenser are set to 11 and working overtime, but reality doesn’t jive with claims made by Tesla shills and fanboyz.

    1. georgeS says:

      “This article is full of BS”

      I wouldn’t say it is full of BS. I would say it is short on specifics.

      but in all fairness the article did state:

      “Tesla hopes to have a completely human-free Version 3 up and running in a few more years”

      1. sven ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ says:

        The EVANNEX article above stated the following:
        “The company plans to produce up to 500,000 vehicles in 2018. Current annual production stands at about 100,000. Clearly, this sort of growth isn’t going to be achieved by making a few incremental improvements – such a quantum leap is going to require remaking the production process.

        “The factory of the future, which Musk calls the ‘alien dreadnought,” will debut with the start of Model 3 production, and Tesla hopes to have a completely human-free Version 3 up and running in a few more years.

        Elon Musk stated the following during the Q2 2017 Conference Call:

        “Yeah, so with Model 3, I think we’ll be roughly comparable with the best high-volume vehicle production lines in the world. Better in some respects, a little worse in others. But roughly comparable, and then with some further iteration, I think it will probably be a little bit better than the next-best automotive production line. Then where things will really be a step change, I think, beyond any other auto manufacturer, will be the Model Y factory. And this is all a function of designing the product to be easy to manufacture and easy to automate, as well as designing the factory itself. So Model-wise, I think, we’re really the common step change, but Model 3 is going to be at or probably slightly better than I think the next best automotive production in the world. I just think that’s pretty good outcome. And then Model Y will be – there will be nothing close to it, I think.

        Q2 2017 Conference Call transcript:
        https://seekingalpha.com/article/4068889-tesla-tsla-q1-2017-results-earnings-call-transcript?part=single

        EVANNEX is wrong in stating that reaching 500,000 units production is going to require “remaking the production process.” It will only require a incremental improvements. Elon clearly stated that Tesla production of the Model 3 is seeking to only match the speed of the high-volume vehicle production lines of other manufacturers.

        Musk then goes on to state that the “step change” in production “with will come with the Model Y in a NEW factory, not the Model 3. According to Musk, “there will be nothing close to [the production-line speed] of the Model Y production line. Musk said future versions of Model 3 production line with “some further iteration. . . will probably be a little bit better than the next-best automotive production line.” Present and future Model 3 productions lines will nowhere close to the speed of the Model Y production line.

        EVANNEX said:
        “Tesla hopes to have a completely human-free Version 3 up and running in a few more years.”

        That is wrong. Elon said at the Q2 conference call that a NEW factory for the Model Y will be a completely human-free Version 3, while the production line for the Model 3 in Freemont will be at best just a little bit faster than the fastest production line of other automakers. The Model 3 line will still have human workers.

        1. Nix says:

          I see the source of your failure.

          Elon: “so with Model 3, I think we’ll be roughly comparable with the best high-volume vehicle production lines in the world.”

          This refers to Alien Dreadnought V0.5 which is where they will be at around Sept/Oct/Nov 2017 when they crank up production.

          Elon: “with some further iteration, I think it will probably be a little bit better than the next-best automotive production line.”

          This refers to Alien Dreadnought V1.0 which is where they will be sometime in mid-2018.

          What you assume is that Tesla will stop improving the Model 3 assembly line in mid-2018 at V1.0 and it will never get better, just because the Model Y will get the full V2.0 or V3.0 of Alien Dreadnought when it is launched. That is false. The Model 3 (and Model S/X assembly lines) will also continue to improve to V2.0, V3.0, etc.

          “Alien Dreadnought” isn’t a single point in time, or a single iteration. It is a continuum of iterative development.

          This is one of the advantages of Tesla owning the robotics company that builds the robots that builds the cars.

          1. Kirk says:

            Do you think they are going to upgrade the existing production line from version 0.5 to version 1.0? My assumption was that they would add a second line in Fremont sometime in 2018 that would be version 1.0.

            1. Nix says:

              I don’t know the answer to that. I will try to find the link again and see if it includes that information.

    2. Tech01x says:

      It’s ok… you’re a bit confused.

      Tesla is claiming upwards to 1 million vehicles to be built in Fremont, but it will take a lot of modifications in order to do so. They presented a plan to the Fremont city planners and helped explain how they will get there.

      Clearly you have not been to the factory. Maybe you should refrain commenting on something you clearly know next to nothing about?

      1. sven ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ says:

        No, you’re a bit confused. Musk said the Freemont factory is busting at the seems and Tesla will need to build a NEW factory and new production line for the Model Y. The 1,000,000 production figure for Freemont originally included Model Y production, then at the Q2 2107 Conference Call, Musk said the Model Y will have to be built in a new factory, not in Freemont.

        Musk said:
        “Then where things will really be a step change, I think, beyond any other auto manufacturer, will be the Model Y factory. And this is all a function of designing the product to be easy to manufacture and easy to automate, as well as designing the factory itself.”

        Martin Viecha – Redburn (Europe) Ltd.
        “Okay. And then the other follow-up question that I had was on the Model Y. You mentioned that the Model 3 production line will be probably as fast, or a bit faster than the fastest production line in the world. And Model Y will be a genuine step change. Does that mean that the Model Y will be made on a different platform than the Model 3.”

        Elon Reeve Musk – Tesla Motors, Inc.
        “It will be, yeah. Different platform. I’ll tell you…”

        Q2 2017 Conference Call transscript:
        https://seekingalpha.com/article/4068889-tesla-tsla-q1-2017-results-earnings-call-transcript?part=single

    3. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      sven said:

      “This article is full of BS. Elon already backtracked…”

      While I never believed Elon’s original claim that he could run the factory at 10 to 20 (!!) times its current speed, at the same time it’s Sven’s constant stream of anti-Tesla FUD that is the B.S. here.

      Sven (or perhaps another Tesla short-selling troll he copied his post from) has taken two quotes completely out of context, and contrasted them to prop up a false claim that Elon has changed his mind.

      I have no doubt that if the production lines in the Fremont plant are rebuilt to move at the speed of touchless automation, that the line can indeed be sped up substantially, altho there are certain operations (for example, painting) that will be considerably harder to speed up, and will surely require building a lot of additional rooms for parallel operations, to increase throughput substantially.

      I also have no doubt that current operations at the Fremont plant still involve a lot of human workers, and so it’s not at all surprising the auto assembly plant is “bursting at the seams” because Tesla uses a lot of in-house manufacturing and sub-assembly work, and all that takes up space. They have already moved some of that to nearby buildings, and will no doubt move more of it out of the main plant as the rate of production is ramped up.

  8. GeorgeS says:

    All this talk about a new machine that makes the machine. The giga factory has been up and running now for around 6 months.

    ….but still no details about the specifics on how they have improved the process. How they have changed the machine that makes the machine.

    Now tjat would make for an interesting article.

    1. Nix says:

      I wouldn’t expect to see anything like that, because the Model 3 assembly line is an ever-evolving thing.

      Right now the Model 3 assembly line is at what Elon calls version 0.5 of Alien Dreadnought. They won’t be at version 1.0 until somewhere around the middle of 2018, which will automate everything even further from where they are now.

      From there it will continue to evolve to version 2.0, version 3.0, etc as they continue to move forward with higher levels of automation with the Model 3 (and eventually the Model Y and Next Gen Roadster, etc.)

      Since “Alien Dreadnought” refers broadly to all of these, and since Tesla has been keeping their Model 3 assembly line completely secret as it is under this process of continual improvement, I don’t think they will be handing out details any time soon.

      Maybe once they hit version 1.0 or 2.0. But until then I would be surprised to see too much in details.

  9. Matthias says:

    I do not get the point – while others produce 10 mio cars a year, they doubt Tesla ramping up to 500k? Tesla is a mature, experienced company in the meanwhile, after >10 years of business. The car was designed for easy production, with low # of possible configurations. Much bigger challenges were taken in the past.

    1. Kdawg says:

      Others have multiple plants around the world. Tesla only has the Fremont plant. They need to expand their assembly plants.

      1. Nix says:

        They are, in two different ways.

        1) Plans have been approved to double the Fremont plant:

        http://www.teslarati.com/fremont-approves-tesla-factory-expansion-plan-nearly-2x-size/

        2) Manufacturing of the battery pack have been moved to the Gigafactory where they have plenty of room to continue to expand (which they are currently doing).

    2. theflew says:

      First thing… All cars are designed to be easily produced. Normally the complexity is designing it to be easily repaired.

      Second 10 years does not make you mature when you are selling 2 models (soon to be 3). They dropped the Roadster and the S is in need of a redesign. The X was the first new model and that didn’t go as well. The 3 is really going to tell us if Tesla learned anything from the S and X. Think about this from a GM or Toyota’s standpoint where at any one time they have several models in different stages of design, develop and build. And at the same time balancing workforce, capacity and cost through worldwide manufacturing and supply.

      Tesla has a lot to learn. I’m not saying they won’t get there, but we have to stop pretending they are there. Tesla’s yearly production is about half a week of GM’s. Even with optimistic Tesla goals for the Model 3 it’s about two weeks of GM’s output.

      1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        “Tesla has a lot to learn. I’m not saying they won’t get there, but we have to stop pretending they are there.”

        Truth. Tesla still has a lot to learn.

        Tesla has only been assembling car bodies for 5 years; the Model S went into production in 2012. The earlier Roadster, using “gliders” (cars without a powertrain) made by Lotus, went into production in 2008, still less than 10 years ago.

        Tesla Inc. is no longer a startup, but neither is it a mature auto manufacturer. But to some extent that’s a good thing. It’s the “young Turks” which are agile enough to take full, fast, and complete advantage of new trends and new techniques during a disruptive tech revolution, not the mature established “dinosaur” companies.

    3. Tom says:

      Because none of those others tried to grow 500% in one year. Just hiring 5 times as many assembly workers in a year and training them would be a Herculean feat let alone on a completely new vehicle. Increasing production this much would be a challenge even for those giant companies. It’s not impossible no but it is going to be extremely difficult to achieve and generally Elon Musk uses more ‘aspirational goals’ rather than hard estimates. He always gives the best case scenario. Sometimes that best case comes true. A more realistic goal is something in the range of 200-250,000 vehicles built in 2018 with an end of year pace more like 300,000. The physical and personnel constraints of his facility (even parking is a problem) are going to all get very pressed. This is the same issue I have every time I heard someone on this site complain about something like the ‘sllloooooowwww’ roll out of car X. Guess what? Maybe car X is being built by professionals who can’t just piss a billion dollars down a hole and hope it works so they proceed with the necessary fiduciary responsibility and calculated risk necessary to keep a long standing publicly traded company in business. e.g. Prius Prime inventory. They’re putting out 10,000 a month and people are making fun of them for not flying off the handle with 25,000 a month or something. Umm…this isn’t software people.

      1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        Delays in Model X production were to some extent an “unforced error” on the part of Tesla. Jay Cole reported that Tesla didn’t get around to even asking suppliers to submit designs for the falcon wing door actuators until it was far too late for proper development and testing. I presume Jay knows what he’s talking about.

        Tesla has taken a far more “hands on” approach to gearing up for production of the Model 3, and it shows. Actually hitting the target date for start of production is something I truly did not think was possible, but Tesla pulled it off!

        Thunderbirds are Go!

        1. Tom says:

          So what you are saying is that:
          a) they have a history of gross incompetence at launching production and
          b) proof of proper launch for the model 3 is hand assembling 1 or 2 a day in July and then perhaps 5 per day in August and calling it ‘nailed it’.

          1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

            Tom said:

            “So what you are saying is that…”

            “…proof of proper launch for the model 3 is hand assembling 1 or 2 a day in July…”

            If you are trying to establish a reputation as the most obnoxious troll posting to InsideEVs, “Tom”, you’re certainly on the fast track to earn that reputation.

            Even the other trolls here generally don’t try to put B.S. in someone else’s mouth. If you want to post FUD which is complete B.S., then speak for yourself. Not for me.

  10. Ocean Railroader says:

    Tesla still appears to be hiring a lot of humans on their website.

    I really think that a lot of factories however might be reaching peak automation.

    Peak Automation is the point at which robots can’t do anymore tasks at a factory.

    The Science Channel had a program called Impossible Engineering that had a program about Tesla’s Giga and Car factory and that factory had robots do 90% of the tasks of making the cars at Tesla.

    1. Kdawg says:

      Tesla doesn’t use robots as much as other automakers do, at least at this point. There are a lot of humans at Fremont, much more than were ever there when GM/Toyota ran it, and they were making a lot more cars.

      1. Nix says:

        When other car makers built cars are NUMMI, it was just a satellite assembly plant, with all the other company functions (development, testing, engineering, etc) being done at other sites.

        On the other hand, Tesla does much more of their business at the Fremont location. So it would be a mistake to simply add up the number of people currently working there, and just divide by the number of cars built, and then draw a conclusion about how much automation they are doing.

        1. Kdawg says:

          Yeah, but it’s not even close. Tesla also has a design studio in Hawthorne and a powertrain division in Palo Alto. They are also only dealing with a couple models.

          1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

            Tesla also does a lot more parts manufacturing and sub-assembly work under the roof at the Fremont plant than other auto makers do in their assembly plants. You can’t just handwave away that important difference, Kdawg; it’s like comparing apples to Rubik’s Cubes. If you included the workers at suppliers who supply those other auto makers with parts and sub-assemblies, then common sense suggests the numbers would be much closer to parity.

            1. Kdawg says:

              As far as assembly goes, I don’t think they are doing anything more efficient than what traditional auto companies have arrived at after years of iterations. In fact, I think they are less efficient, at this point. They are using the same robots & equipment to assembly cars all the others use. Typical job rates for some equipment we build for auto plants is 90JPH (jobs per hour). If you want to say Tesla will run 24 hours/day x 365 days/year, with a 90JPH rate, you end up at 788K vehicles. However, I don’t think this is remotely possibly. Note most equipment is at a 60JPH rate.

              1. sven ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ says:

                Yes, Tesla is less efficient. In the Q2 2017 Conference Call, Musk said the following with regards to the targeted efficiency of the Model 3 production line:

                “Yeah, so with Model 3, I think we’ll be roughly comparable with the best high-volume vehicle production lines in the world. Better in some respects, a little worse in others. But roughly comparable, and then with some further iteration, I think it will probably be a little bit better than the next-best automotive production line. Then where things will really be a step change, I think, beyond any other auto manufacturer, will be the Model Y factory. And this is all a function of designing the product to be easy to manufacture and easy to automate, as well as designing the factory itself. So Model-wise, I think, we’re really the common step change, but Model 3 is going to be at or probably slightly better than I think the next best automotive production in the world. I just think that’s pretty good outcome. And then Model Y will be – there will be nothing close to it, I think.

                Q1 2017 Conference Call transcript:
                https://seekingalpha.com/article/4068889-tesla-tsla-q1-2017-results-earnings-call-transcript?part=single

                Musk pushed back all the vaunted “alien dread naught” “machine that makes the machine” efficiency improvements from the soon-to-be-released Model 3 made in the Freemont factory to the Model Y made in an NEW factory to be built in the future.

                Musk said the Model 3 production line will be “roughly comparable” to the high-volume vehicle production line of other manufacturers. But then Musk said with future improvements to the Model 3 line, “it will probably be a little bit better than the next-best automotive production line. Cue the sad trombone. Whomp, whomp, whomp, whoooommmmp. 🙁

                https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKdcjJoXeEY

              2. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

                @Kdawg:

                And there is another factor not yet mentioned in discussion of this subject: The fact that, so far, Tesla has been making only “premium” cars. If you compare Tesla to GM or Ford, even after factoring in the greater number of in-house parts Tesla makes, then it’s not surprising that Tesla has a higher number of workers per car, since it has a higher average number of parts per car.

                If we were to compare Tesla to, say, Audi or Porsche or Lexus, then I suspect the numbers would be closer to matching. Maybe a lot closer.

                Nix also has a valid point about Tesla hiring new workers in anticipation of ramping up Model 3 production, ramping up at a pace not found at any other auto maker of any real size.

                Like Nix, I haven’t tried to do sufficient research to come up with a true apples-to-apples comparison. Frankly, that exceeds my interest level, and due to the many variables involved, I think it would be rather difficult to make a fair comparison.

            2. Nix says:

              ^^ This is correct. For example, Toyota built the entire engine and transaxle assembly in Canada, and then shipped them to NUMMI (and other manufacturing sites). At NUMMI, they mounted up the already pre-assembled hub2hub motor/transaxle into the body, and put on tires.

              NUMMI would get shipments of a sub-component already assembled that would look something like this:

              (not that actual image, but something built together like that and ready to be installed as one unit)

              The only parts manufacturing done by Toyota at NUMMI were steel body panel stampings, and plastic moldings, like door panels and dashboards. Everything else was strictly assembly of parts built elsewhere. You would need to add back in all the workers from the engine/transaxle plant and etc also to even start to compare.

              It simply isn’t at all the same as what Tesla is doing.

              1. Nix says:

                ^^ This is correct == Pushy is correct.

                1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

                  Occasionally. 😉

  11. Breezy says:

    The real trick will be if the “Prophets of Palo Alto” can actually make the Profits of Palo Alto. Not just conventional auto industry wisdom, that’s a first principle that any public company needs to adhere to.

    1. Brett says:

      A company does need to make a profit…eventually. Amazon from 1995 to 2002 didn’t turn a profit. Obviously not the same industry, but turning a profit quickly isn’t always the first concern of a public company, hence the use of public share offerings to fund expansion.

      I agree with your statement in principle, but given Tesla’s continuous expansion into different industries, the expectations and timelines around achieving relatively consistent profitability might not be as crucial in the near term.

  12. Bar says:

    Gotta love a guy with the name Mr. Funk.

  13. Nix says:

    “Funk … claims to be quite familiar with the Fremont plant from its pre-Tesla days.”

    That is nice, but Tesla has already gotten approval to roughly double the current size of the Fremont plant (on top of previous expansions done since it was the old NUMMI plant). And construction on that began back in 2016:

    http://www.teslarati.com/fremont-approves-tesla-factory-expansion-plan-nearly-2x-size/

    So any estimates he is making based upon the old NUMMI plant are off by a factor of 2 right off the bat. And that is before you even account for the fact that Tesla is using their Gigafactory to build the battery packs.

    “He predicts that the company will be able to produce at most 230,000 units of Model 3 in 2018, well short of Tesla’s forecast.”

    Since we already know that any numbers he based upon his familiarity on the old (smaller) NUMMI version of the same plant, it is simply a question of how far off is he?

    Based upon the most aggressive numbers, a goal of 500K Model S+X+3 cars would be 100K S+X cars, and 400K Model 3’s. This guy is estimating 230K TM3’s. Assuming 100K S+X’s on top of that, we reach 330K. That would be 33% short of any 500K goal.

    But Tesla as mentioned before Tesla is doubling the Fremont factory size. So Tesla would only need to complete about half their expansion plan they started construction on in 2016 to have enough room based on this guy’s numbers.

    That’s before you factor in the Desperately Seeking Alpha FUD factor, since contributors there have such a poor record in getting their DOOM! predictions horribly wrong. (When did they say Tesla would go bankrupt and close their doors? 2006? 2007? 2008? 2009? 2010? 2011? 2012? 2013? 2014? 2015? 2016? 2017? Yup, they were wrong each and every one of those years they predicted Tesla’s doors being forced to close in bankruptcy.)

    Meh. I don’t think he is worth taking seriously. But with that said, the original claim by Tesla in their SEC filings in 2016 was a target of a manufacturing rate of 500K/yr (20k/wk) by the end of 2018. I still think that means at most they would build (not deliver) 20K cars per week by Dec 2018, with a Jan 2018 rate of 5K/week. So Tesla likely has plenty of time to finish their expansion before the full space for 20K/week is needed.

Leave a Reply