By on May 31, 2016

gigafactory-aerial-1

If you’re a Tesla owner who spent the past year diligently convincing your friends and family to join the club, clear your schedule for July 29.

The electric automaker recently mailed out invites to a grand opening party for its battery-producing Gigafactory, located (like a Bond villain’s lair) in the desert outside Reno, Nevada. The chances of guests being wowed by a fully operational factory humming with workers busily cranking out EV batteries is doubtful, though.

The letters, confirmed as legit after one was posted to Reddit, promise a swanky shindig in the $5 billion, 5.8 million square foot building. Stay at the Whitney Peak Hotel, folks — you’ll get a killer rate!

It’s an exclusive event. Only owners who referred more than five customers to the automaker get an invite.

Still, the term ‘grand opening’ needs a Gigafactory-sized grain of salt. Sure, Tesla plans to ramp up production to 500,000 units a year by 2018, and CEO Elon Musk is busy flinging money at potential problems with feverish gusto. That doesn’t mean guests at the July 29 party are going to see the finished product.

According to Bloomberg, the Gigafactory was only 14 percent completed at the beginning of the month, with 90 percent of existing interior areas under construction. Tesla representatives said that despite the accelerated schedule, vehicle batteries won’t roll out of the factory until the end of the year.

Gigafactory production is key to getting the Model 3 rolling out the door of Tesla’s California assembly plant on time. Musk wants at least 100,000 units of that model built by the end of 2017.

A lot of work can be accomplished in two months (see any World War Two engineering project as an example), but Musk’s Gigafactory soirée probably has more to do with shoring up public confidence in his company’s abilities than anything to do with concrete and steel.

[Sources: Bloomberg, Fortune] [Image: Tesla Motors]

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37 Comments on “Come to Elon Musk’s ‘Grand Opening’ Party in a Probably Unfinished Factory...”


  • avatar
    pdl2dmtl

    I want this guy to succeed but cannot stop from thinking that the word “hustler” comes to mind when thinking about him.

    • 0 avatar
      DevilsRotary86

      I think hustler is too harsh. But he is reminding me of Preston Tucker more and more, in particular Tucker’s Accessories Program. The auto business is unbelievably capital intensive and it’s a miracle that an independent upstart company has gotten this far. But the moment of truth is coming. The Model 3 absolutely must succeed. If it doesn’t, then the company is over. It really is that simple.

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        He’s a hustler who has delivered on every big promise so far. In other words, he fits the original definition of hustler (like a Horatio Algers character), but not the later definition (like the Paul Newman film).

        On the other hand, those that constantly predict his downfall have been wrong every single time. That behavior leans towards the second definition of hustler.

        Not saying he won’t “get his comeuppance,” or whatever. Just that his track record is better than his (constant) detractors’ track records. The very least this tells me is that people are prone to under-estimating him and his companies. To the point that it’s comical.

        If Elon Musk said he was thinking of having a burger for lunch, half the B&B would invent theories to explain why it’s impossible. And then they’d have nothing but a sackful of confounding excuses (“lunch means noon!”, “a cheeseburger is not a burger!”, “the staff cafeteria is subsidized!”, “that burger was hand-made, real burgers come out of machines!”, “he couldn’t eat 10,000 burgers a day!”).

    • 0 avatar
      mmreeses

      Draw a Venn diagram of “hustlers” and “GAAP accounting.”

      Now replace hustler w/Tesla.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The term “WWII engineering project” is an appropriate descriptor for the schedule and scale of the Gigafactory and the Model 3.

  • avatar
    orenwolf

    That’s going to be one hell of a place when it IS finished. I can’t wait to see the videos. Doubling the world’s production of Li cells? Craziness.

    • 0 avatar
      TriumphDriver

      Doubling the world’s production of lithium-ion batteries may run into some issues with raw materials:
      http://investorintel.com/technology-metals-intel/lithium-ion-batteries-three-critical-mineral-constraints/

  • avatar

    It depends on how one defines “succeed.” I do believe that Musk will find out that it is better use of capital to invest in Tesla’s internal workings and leave retailing to those who actually know how to retail mass market. The Apple model works a lot better for gadgets than for vehicles. I predict he will sell off his retail network for large multiples. I don’t see him having a choice. It would gain him positive cash rather than expense, a dramatic turn around for the balance sheet. Musk could still retain a lot of control ala Saturn. Dealers would be granted territories, rather than single points. All of the investment in that would be done by those dealers. At this point, used Teslas are piling up, eating up a lot of Tesla capital. That can’t go one. Despite what we here, all Teslas aren’t build to order. There are plenty of new ones sitting around waiting to be had. When it happens Musk will put his best faced forward, but he won’t have a choice.

    • 0 avatar
      01 Deville

      +1.

      There MS- I did my bit for keeping this site afloat (Tesla tag being a click magnet and all)

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      You may be right. But I think he’s wise to try to avoid that at all costs. Keeping control of the sales channel gives maximum control over it, to minimize the chances of bad dealer experiences that could reflect back on the brand. And it’s one of the things people like about Tesla, frankly. Never underestimate how much people loathe car dealers. If you experienced the sleazy sales managers and scumbag F&I guys the way an occasional car buyer does, you wouldn’t blame them a bit for feeling that way. I realize not all dealers are “like that,” but I’ve had exactly one unequivocally positive dealer experience in my life, and that’s one more than most folks I’ve met.

      (Credit where due: the good experience was at Galpin Mazda in the LA Valley. No pressure or BS from the salesman, a great deal on the car I wanted with no wasted time or shenanigans from the sales manager, and most shocking of all, honest and helpful guidance from the F&I guy. It’s probably not the same crew today that it was in ’05/’06 tho.)

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        Nissan has problems with some dealers in selling and supporting the Leaf. I know of one that likes to use the CHAdeMO charger space for displaying used cars, so if you need to charge, you have to get them to move the car or park within inches of the used cars. Another dealer, Ron Bouchard, requires you to have bought the car from them in order to charge. The thing with charging is that you really never need to charge at a dealer somewhat close to your home that you might normally buy the car from.

        On the other hand, you do have some great dealers out there that support Leaf owners. The laws that protect the bad dealers need to go. A manufacturer should be able to have more control over these idiots. Many of these idiots don’t actually know retailing and resort to scams in order to make money. How much added dealer markup would we be seeing on Teslas? How many dealers would try to sell them on an S class or BMW instead? How many dealers would be trying to slip no-name brand car products for $800 into a sales contract without a buyer noticing like they tried to do with my son? Tesla is doing the right thing.

        Sometimes I wonder how big a factor the no-dealer thing is with Tesla? That might be a bigger factor than saving the environment or saving money.

      • 0 avatar

        RE: “But I think he’s wise to try to avoid that at all costs.”

        At the cost of his company? Again, he could go the Saturn route. When an OEM builds a car, it gets paid BEFORE the car leaves the assembly plant. There is no capital tied up in inventory sitting around. That’s on the dealer’s nickel. The expense doesn’t go away. Its just born by others. Having a dealer network to provide inventory buffering goes even beyond the fact that hundreds of millions would be freed up for other things, like product development and survival.

        RE: “A manufacturer should be able to have more control over these idiots.”

        If they want more control over someone elses capital and business decisions all they need to do is to change their franchise agreement. What’s preventing that? Saturn had no problem establishing single point stores and controlling its dealers to a point. What is preventing Tesla from doing that?

        Its one thing to be a boutique auto OEM. Mass market is a whole nuther deal.

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    https://youtu.be/g7-tskP0OzI

  • avatar

    Chickens, let me count thee, speaketh the Musk.

    Credit for building mass-market electric cars? For fighting the chokehold of the dealer lobbyists? I’ll give Musk credit for that. But this is like those glowing videos on Facebook, of some incredible new “technology”, highlighted with bullet points and CGI, which inevitably never comes to pass (the posting groups are always something like “OMG SCIENCE!!!” or “Progressive Coffee Drinkers” or something of the like).

    Put up or shut up. Stop hyping crap that hasn’t come to fruition. Tell me what positive things you’ve accomplished *right now*, not what you anticipate ten years from now.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      I don’t know, how about:

      First successful private resupply of the ISS using an in-house-designed orbital vehicle?

      or

      First successful return of payloads from the ISS since the Shuttle cancellation?

      or

      First electric car sold in large numbers with decent range?

      or

      First successful launch and at-sea soft-landing of an orbital satellite inserting booster?

      First all-new rocket engine design in the US in decades (not once, but twice).

      The guy has done some incredible things in two completely different areas AT THE SAME TIME.

      • 0 avatar

        “I don’t know, how about:”

        I’m not saying the man doesn’t do amazing things, in fact the closest fictional analog I can think of is Mr. Weyland from the “Alien” movies. But I grow tired of tech serving as hype. Deliver the tech, then let us hype it for you.

    • 0 avatar

      The Tesla Sidewinder IIs on my Aspire Nautilus is awesome as hell.

  • avatar

    I wonder what a big hail storm will do to this place.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      I’ve actually wondered about actual- or quasi-terrorist attacks, or other accidents, as you point out. I hope they install a missile defense system or something. It is becoming a very large target for Bad Things.

      That roof could resemble a runway for an errant plane.

      • 0 avatar

        I retrieved some hail data for Reno. Significant hail larger than a half inch:

        0.88″ hail on 7/21/2006
        0.75″ hail on 7/14/2008
        0.88″ hail on 8/2/2009
        1.5″ hail on 6/28/2013
        1.75″ hail on 7/8/2015
        .75″ inch hail on 5/5/2016

        Not sure how you protect a large solar panel array from very large hail. The 2013 and 2015 events broke the windows out of cars; the latter event even penetrated a windshield or two.

  • avatar
    shaker

    Another Space X booster successfully landed on a floating barge – tail first.

    This used to be the stuff of science fiction – now fact.

    I’m always pulling for this guy.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      I still think that Tesla being part of the same keiretsu as a potential financial powerhouse like SpaceX is a huge advantage. I don’t think that people realize how much cash could flow to Tesla. Guess who gets the contract for developing a Mars rover? What about batteries – guess where they’re coming from? Musk will also have personal income from SpaceX that he could move to Tesla. If the stock price gets low enough, SpaceX could out and out buy them.

      SpaceX might just be the ace in the hole for the whole Tesla saga.

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        You hit the nail on the head. SpaceX is, in some respects, a real throwback to the early days of American missile development. They are incredibly vertically-integrated. That’s a concept that much of modern industry sees as outmoded, but it offers a huge advantage in quality control. Furthermore, SpaceX seems to be devoted to the notion of all-up testing, last successfully used by NASA on the Saturn V project which suffered exactly zero launch failures.

        All-up testing really needs to be examined by more organizations. We have made component testing into a doctrine with sometimes horrifying results. I’m sure that every individual subsystem created for the troubled F-35 was thoroughly tested using whatever test parameters were defined early in the project. Is it a surprise that when systems integration occurs, so many “we didn’t realize that…” issues pop up?

        The Saturn V design and development, by contrast, was completely integrated from the start. It appears that SpaceX has adopted this philosophy. They are willing accept the risk of an occasional catastrophic launch failure (an RUD or “rapid unintentional disassembly” in rocket engineer parlance) in exchange for the advantages of all-up testing.

  • avatar
    Bazza

    “…now witness the mAh-power of this fully charged and operational battery station!”

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