Tesla did it. Sort of. It hit its goal of 5,000 Tesla Model 3s per week (albeit half a year late), bringing it to over 7,000 cars a week total. Production was up 55 percent this past quarter over the one before it, Tesla says, and the company is declaring it all its trouble“worth it.” But there has been trouble.
Q2 production totaled 53,339 vehicles, a 55% increase from Q1, making it the most productive quarter in Tesla history by far. For the first time, Model 3 production (28,578) exceeded combined Model S and X production (24,761), and we produced almost three times the amount of Model 3s than we did in Q1. Our Model 3 weekly production rate also more than doubled during the quarter, and we did so without compromising quality.
Credit where credit is due—Tesla did build 5,000 Model 3s in one week. I’ve never even attempted to build a single car in my life. But whereas I know the quality of any car I built would be questionable at best, Tesla is saying that the 5,000 Model 3s it churned out in the past week—with roughly 20 percent of those built on assembly line GA4, AKA an actual tent—are of the same quality as every Model 3 built before this batch.
That’s even with Tesla’s engineers suddenly deciding that cars built now have 300 fewer welds than cars built just a little while ago, according to an article this weekend from the New York Times about Tesla’s manufacturing process:
In a very tangible sense, Tesla views its production line as a laboratory for untested techniques. In recent weeks, company executives concluded they could produce Model 3 underbodies with fewer spot welds than they had been using. The car is still held together by about 5,000 welds, but engineers concluded that some 300 were unnecessary and reprogrammed robots to assemble the steel underbody without them.
And that’s also with Tesla treating its robots in much the same fashion with which it treats its employees:
In another bid to push the limits of technology, Tesla at times pulls robots off the line and tests them operating at speeds greater than specified by the supplier, said Charles Mwangi, Tesla’s director of body engineering.
“We are actually breaking them to see what the maximum limit is,” Mr. Mwangi said. The idea is to find ways of accelerating production without spending capital on new machinery. In the future, rather than adding more machines to increase output, “we can just dial up our equipment,” he said.
And that’s also with what you just perceived to be a snide comment to actually be based on real anecdotes from Tesla workers:
Workers feel the pressure to speed output. In interviews away from the plant, several said they had been putting in 10- and 12-hour days, sometimes six days a week. They report that turnover among line workers is high, and that sometimes supervisors join the line during extended shifts.
And that’s also with Tesla’s factory appearing to be covered in the sort of grime and grit you wouldn’t see in, say, a McLaren factory:
And that’s also with Tesla’s production rate being laughed at by the head of Ford Europe:
And that 55 percent increase has been partially fueled by the Tesla Model S and the Model X, Tesla notes:
Q2 deliveries totaled 40,740 vehicles, of which 18,440 were Model 3, 10,930 were Model S, and 11,370 were Model X. Model S and X deliveries are in line with our guidance provided on May 3. As we previously noted, we are in the process of changing the quarterly production pattern of those vehicles for the various worldwide regions to ensure a more linear flow of deliveries through the quarter. Both orders and deliveries for Model S and X were higher in Q2 than a year ago. Our overall target for 100,000 Model S and Model X deliveries in 2018 is unchanged.
Tesla says that it still has 420,000 Model 3 orders left to fulfill, and that it will soon increase production from 5,000 Model 3s a week to 6,000 Model 3s per week.
But would you want a car built in a messy factory, by a company still figuring out how to make its products, by both robots and people that are past their breaking points?
Apparently there are 420,000 people willing to pony up the cash to still say “yes.”