Following a report from the Wall Street Journal last week claiming that major elements of the Tesla Model 3 production line were being carried out by hand while the machinery meant to be doing it was still being sorted out, Elon Musk posted a video of the production line on Sunday, seemingly in response to the report.
Tesla claims the Wall Street Journal’s report was “fundamentally wrong and misleading,” and that every Model 3 so far has been produced on a functioning production line.
Elon Musk claims the video he uploaded to Instagram shows the Model 3 production line operating at one-tenth of its potential pace (the line itself is operating slower in real-time, the video has not been slowed):
Musk tweeted that the line was “slowed down right now to confirm build consistency and so that a person can stop the robots in time if something goes wrong,” which sounds kind of terrifying but seems like an appropriate precaution considering the Model 3 line is just getting started. However, it still shows the company is lagging behind its own projected potential.
Tesla never directly addressed the claims over major elements of the car being assembled by hand, which would be unusual for a mass-market car, which the Model 3 is intended to be. Instead, Tesla simply stated that all of its production lines have both “manual and automated processes” and that there were no fundamental issues, just growing pains.
However, and this is just some conjecture, Tesla failing to meet its production goal of 1,500 Model 3 cars in the third quarter due to this “production hell” is suggestive that it has faced substantial setbacks in establishing a fully-functioning production line for the new car. Tesla also later admitted that “a handful” of manufacturing subsystems “have taken longer to activate than expected.” Were cars being assembled while these systems weren’t activated? If so, how?
All Elon Musk’s production line video proves is that elements of the Model 3 production line are indeed functioning, and even then it’s later than expected and at a reduced pace. It does nothing to disprove the Wall Street Journal’s claims that some parts of the previously produced 260 Model 3 cars were welded and assembled by hand. This should be an issue for customers concerned about Tesla’s history of quality issues.
Tesla and Musk claim they will make up the lag in production in time, citing the vague S-curve chart of production growth, explaining how production should exponentially expand on a day-to-day basis. We’ll see.