Tesla’s off to a rocky start with the production launch of the new Model 3 sedan, spurred in part by the company’s unorthodox approach to making cars. On Friday, the Financial Times revealed another unusual method to production: In numerous instances the company “shipped cars from the factory that lacked key parts,” including everything from digital displays to seats.
It seems like an... interesting way to finish a car, rather than just have it roll off the line in its complete state.
Here’s how the FT describes Tesla’s solution to shipping a car without a seat:
These parts were flown to Tesla-owned dealers, who then assembled them into the vehicle before completing the shipments to customers, according to several people familiar with the practice.
“This goes back years,” says a former regional executive, who declined to be named.
“It was common, common in every market — the seats, the displays were being flown in.”
The FT says it doesn’t breach Tesla’s disclosure rules, but it “does raise questions over whether the vehicles were adequately checked and calibrated before being delivered to users.”
In a statement, a Tesla spokesperson said that, “Unlike other car companies, which do not change their cars for at least a year at a time, Tesla is constantly improving its cars with over-the-air updates and often design and hardware improvements.”
“As but one example, that means occasionally we will even send, say, new certified parts to meet a car at the delivery center if those items have been upgraded after the car has shipped,” the spokesperson said. “This process may be unfamiliar to some, but has worked very well for us, as our customers know that if we can add value or make something better, we will do everything we can to do it right away.”
Tesla’s had a rocky launch with the new all-electric Model 3 sedan, which starts at a base price of $35,000. As we reported this week, the Model 3 line was still being finished as of last month and new robotics—designed to increase the speed of production—are still not operating automated, as intended.
The FT quoted someone—who, according to the news outlet, has “inspected car plants all over the world” and recently visited Tesla’s Fremont plant—saying as much.
“I have never seen so much manual labour on a line,”the person said.
Tesla said this week that it can ramp up production of the Model 3 to 5,000 cars per week by sometime next March, delaying the target previously set by three months.