Inside Tesla's Fremont factory
According to Reuters, over 90 percent of Tesla Model S and X vehicles aren't ready when they come off the assembly line.
The publication reports that most vehicles need to be fixed before heading out for delivery. Reuters extracted the information from former Tesla workers and other unconfirmed sources. The article mentions:
"The luxury cars regularly require fixes before they can leave the factory, according to the workers. Quality checks have routinely revealed defects in more than 90 percent of Model S and Model X vehicles inspected after assembly, these individuals said, citing figures from Tesla’s internal tracking system as recently as October. Some of these people told Reuters of seeing problems as far back as 2012."
Tesla continues to claim that its customers are very happy overall. The automaker has received numerous awards for customer satisfaction, and although shares have slowly declined as of late, the company's stock/market cap is in incredible shape nonetheless. A Tesla spokesperson told Business Insider:
Tesla Model 3 production
“Our goal is to produce perfect cars for every customer. Therefore, we review every vehicle for even the smallest refinement."
The number of labor hours needed to complete a vehicle has decreased 33% since early 2016.
Of the 250,000 Tesla vehicles ever produced, more than half were built in the past 18 months. Whereas before, it took three shifts with considerable overtime to produce our target annual production of 100,000 Model S and X vehicles, now it can be done with only two shifts and minimal overtime."
The automaker explains that every vehicle is inspected in extensive detail after coming off the line. It is important that if there are any issues, these cars are tended to before moving on to the delivery stage.
So, are a few quick, manual fixes really a problem?
Tesla is a low volume automaker and is not working with the resources of legacy OEMs. Until the company secured some 500,000 orders for its Model 3, there was really no impending production hell to contend with. Sure, getting cars to customers on time should be a priority, and it's something the automaker has struggled with, but people seemed (and still seem) willing to cut some slack and afford incredible patience. Tesla notes that it:
"... has the highest customer satisfaction levels and the highest percentage of customers who say that their next car will be a Tesla in the entire global auto industry.”
Tesla Model 3, LA Auto Show (Image Credit: Tom Moloughney/InsideEVs)
With monumental Model 3 production ahead, however, the automaker can't possibly have time to be fixing every vehicle by hand. Manually adjusting a few thousand cars a month is already a large task, but some tens of thousands is another story. Hopefully, with bottleneck issues behind (and we have no valid proof of such), the assembly line can do what it's supposed to do and produce finished products as quickly as possible.
Does this mean that Model 3 quality will suffer?
Well, Tesla has never been revered for its impeccable fit and finish. As stated above, people have been willing to let issues slide. However, there are certain expectations when we're talking about a $100,000 luxury car. If the automaker didn't go back and perform those necessary fixes, there would likely be more cause for concern.
The Model 3 is marketed as the "less expensive/entry level" vehicle, even though the current model prices out at closer $50,000 or more, depending on configuration. While expectations may not be as stringent (as if they were stringent in the first place), people are expecting a good car (and perhaps even more so after waiting so long), and traditional automotive reviewers won't be cutting any slack.
Only time will tell how the Silicon Valley electric automaker fares with Model 3 production and what level of quality the finished product retains once high volume manufacturing is underway. This may prove especially interesting when applied to the originally promised $35,000 base model.