Tesla Test Driver / Quality Inspector Explains His Day-To-Day Duties
Quality inspector Jeff Hickethier test drives Tesla vehicles as they come off the assembly line, he shares the experience and his obsessively critical nature.
Jeff has been performing these tests for years (six of which have been at Tesla), and now he’s actually a trainer for new inspectors. He’s been dealing with cars for most of his life. In his 20s, he ran an aftermarket car parts business out of his parent’s basement. He went on to work for a few related companies and even managed a large automotive outfit until it shut down.
Jeff’s job is to comb over every vehicle for issues prior to delivery. While the word on the streets is that Tesla vehicles falter when it comes to quality, fit, and finish (it all depends on who you talk to), Jeff considers himself highly obsessive over the details. He told Business Insider:
“The things that I find are usually not going to be anything that a customer would complain about.
Sometimes I’m too critical. They’ll tell me, ‘Nobody’s complaining — pull yourself back!'”
According to Business Insider, 50-year-old Jeff Hickethier drives his BMW 3 Series to Fremont five days a week to hit Tesla’s test track. He leaves his Audi R8 at home. Apparently, he’s done pretty well for himself, but one would think he’d own a Tesla, right?
Anyhow, his arrival time is 5:45 AM, at which point the factory in Fremont is already getting quite busy. His initial time at the factory often includes touching base with some engineers, and then he heads outside for the remainder of the workday. Jeff shares:
“Most companies do sample testing. They take one out of every couple thousand cars.”
However, Tesla tests many more vehicles. The automaker is still “new” in the grand scheme of things, and can’t really afford to have continuous issues. He says:
“There are so many quality checks it’s ridiculous.
What we’re checking for are items like alignment and brakes. We’re taught to focus on every little thing.”
As far as Jeff is concerned, you can never be too critical. These cars end up in people’s driveways after he’s driven them, and there’s no excuse for an issue that could have (and should have) been resolved. He claims that he won’t even allow a small creak to exist, even if no one else notices it. Despite the demands associated with his job, Jeff still believes that he “probably” has the “coolest job at Tesla.”
Jeff understands that Tesla will continue to be under constant scrutiny. His job is stressful, and no matter how hard he works, people will still find problems. Tesla is up against legacy automakers that have been succeeding at their craft for decades. At this point, Tesla still spends every penny it makes (and more) to invest in the future. It can’t risk faltering due to vehicle quality being deemed unacceptable. Business Insider explains:
“For Hickethier, handing the stress is simply what he does. He runs each vehicle through a gantlet of challenges, ranging from strips of bumps and rusty chunks of metal to locate lose components or suspension flaws to speed runs around the track to double-check that a Tesla can live up to its reputation for velocity. All the while, he’s scrutinizing the car for the types of nearly invisible flaws that he has spent years calling out. He may have a trainee sitting next to him, learning the ropes, or he may be in the passenger seat, passing on his obsessiveness to the next generation.”
Source: Business Insider