Financial Times Investigates Tesla Model 3 Production Issues
The Financial Times attempted to get to the bottom of Tesla Model 3 production bottlenecks and discovered a few concerns we hadn’t been apprised of.
So, at this point, most of us are aware that Tesla is having issues manufacturing the Model 3 in volume. Initially, CEO Elon Musk was vague to say that the automaker faced “production bottlenecks”. The Wall Street Journal then accused the company of having an unfinished assembly line and building cars by hand. Musk has since released multiple videos disproving this. Then it seemed to be supplier issues, but ultimately and the needle landed on a battery production-related problem.
The Financial Times interviewed over a dozen people — including former employees with information about Tesla’s production practices — to get a better grasp on what else might be going on. The interviews verified that an automated system that was to be used to build Model 3 battery packs is not working properly, which means work must be done by hand at the Gigafactory. Additionally, similar battery-related issues are slowing production in Fremont.
As for the “new” discoveries, which could relate to the original issues related to suppliers, FT has learned that parts aren’t arriving in a timely manner to map with the production schedule. This doesn’t necessarily mean that parts are missing, although it could. It also means that extra unneeded parts may be arriving ahead of schedule and Tesla has to store them. Neither of these situations makes for a well-synced process. FT quoted an anonymous source that shared (via Autoblog):
“They [Tesla] showed complete befuddlement” when one supplier couldn’t turn around a revised part on Tesla’s schedule. “Tesla kept saying ‘you need to make it faster’, [but] any time you make changes [to the design], you go back to the start of the process.”
According to FT, there are issues directly related to Musk making continual, and sometimes last-minute changes to the factory, the assembly process, and the Model 3 itself. This not only slows manufacturing due to learning curves, but it can also lead to screwed up supply orders. With last-minute changes, the line needs to be slowed or even stopped to perform frequent tweaks and checks. Musk shared a video of the Model 3 line creeping along at 1/10th speed and mentioned that this is to:
“…confirm build consistency and so that a person can stop the robots in time if something goes wrong.”
Despite all of this, Tesla stock is still faring quite well, many analysts are still siding with the company and expecting a positive future, and a wealth of people are still enamored with the Model 3. Yes, enamored enough to even wait years for their prized car. Though there’s no excuse for such issues, successfully starting a highly disruptive automotive startup in this day and age is an epic feat. This is why no one else even attempts it. Let’s just hope Tesla gets everything worked out as soon as possible.
At the end of the day (or quarter if you will), if the line is up and running, with production being churned out and reservations filled in a more timely matter only a few months late, none of this will matter so much.