Tesla Delays Big Rig, Tries to Ramp Up Model 3 Production As Report of Hand-built Parts Surfaces

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

It’s been of week of bad PR and reports that should have Tesla investors tugging their collars and thinking twice, though in Teslaland these well-publicised issues only propel the automaker’s stock even higher.

The company’s electric big rig (aka the Tesla Semi), rumored to have a range of 200 to 300 miles, won’t see the light of day until November 16th, CEO Elon Musk claims. That’s two months after the initial reveal date, which was subsequently pushed back until late October.

The larger problem facing the company is the slow ramp-up of Model 3 production, which kicked off in July, but only resulted in only 220 deliveries by the end of September. The company forecasted 1,500 Model 3s in the month of September, with an expected production rate of 5,000 vehicles per week by the end of the year. Blame the slow trickle of cars on a “manufacturing bottleneck issue,” the company said in a statement.

As Musk attempts to soothe fears, a new report claims the automaker was hand-building parts away from the assembly line even as the high-tech facility was supposed to be cranking out Model 3s at a steady clip. Tesla is not happy about this report.

The Wall Street Journal claimed yesterday that as late as early September, workers were assembling major portions of the Model 3 by hand, away from the Fremont, California plant’s automated assembly line.

The unnamed sources told the WSJ that because the assembly line wasn’t ready, Tesla created a special area in the plant for the low-tech builds, leading to far fewer completed vehicles. Customers, of which hundreds of thousands already exist, and investors were not made aware of this.

Adding to the controversy are production discrepancies discovered this week by the Daily Kanban. Musk told the media, and thus potential investors, that production would reach 500,000 vehicles a year in 2018. However, in a January application for sales tax exemption from California’s CAEATFA program, the company claims a Model 3 production capacity of 226,563 units per year over a five-year span. Combine that figure with the predicted production of the Model S and X (195,000) and the total tally falls far short of the half-million mark.

In response to queries from the WSJ, a Tesla spokeswoman refused to answer questions, the publication claims. Instead, the spokeswoman attacked the WSJ, stating, “For over a decade, the WSJ has relentlessly attacked Tesla with misleading articles that, with few exceptions, push or exceed the boundaries of journalistic integrity. While it is possible that this article could be an exception, that is extremely unlikely.”

The word “defensive” doesn’t even begin to capture the fury of that statement — a response that isn’t likely to make Tesla any friends in the journalism sphere. Well, maybe there’s one exception.

Tesla Semi unveil now Nov 16. Diverting resources to fix Model 3 bottlenecks & increase battery production for Puerto Rico & other affected areas.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 6, 2017

In response to yesterday’s tweet, Musk referenced an earlier statement by saying, “We are deep in production hell.” One commenter asked when those on the Model 3 waiting list can expect official information as to delivery dates, to which Musk responded, “You’ll know as soon as we do.”

The CEO said he expects the online configurator (aka “design studio”) to appear for non-employee Model 3 reservation holders in six to eight weeks. As of now, Tesla is only making one configuration of the electric sedan (the pricier Long Range model), with the only option being paint color.

The upswing in bad PR for Tesla corresponds with a rise in defensiveness from Musk’s most ardent supporters, sending the car company even closer to becoming a de-facto political affiliation or religion. Some would say it’s already reached that point. One thing not impacted by the troubling reports or the fanatical fanboyism, however, is the company’s stock.

Tesla shares began the week trading at $342.52, and ended the week at $356.88. Earlier this week, one Wall Street firm predicted the stock hitting the $500-a-share mark within a year.

[Image: Tesla]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Synchromesh Synchromesh on Oct 09, 2017

    Heh, this is funny, finally saw a model 3 in person today on the road in San Francisco. It was nothing special, looked like a squashed Model S. Red in color with some hipster driving. Really, I don't remember such a yawn-inspiring new car-seeing experience.

    • See 2 previous
    • TonyJZX TonyJZX on Oct 09, 2017

      @mcs as an enthusiast i have three kinds of 'bents' as far as enjoyment goes the v8 6 spd manual the turbo six cylinder w/ 7 spd dual clutch and the Model 3 ev they are all different and all to be enjoyed i could not see a world with only an EV and the 220 miles and no fossil fuels is just more bonuses

  • Master Baiter Master Baiter on Oct 09, 2017

    I'm waiting for the first real review of a Model 3. Deliveries to employees and other friendly customers don't count. . .

  • Golden2husky Have to say he did an excellent job on the C7, especially considering the limited budget he was given. I am very happy with my purchase.
  • Marty The problem isn't range; it's lack of electricity in multi-unit building parking. All you need is level 1 - a standard 120v wall socket - and if you're plugged in 10 hours overnight you get 280 miles per week or more. That's enough for most folks but you can use public charging to supplement when needed. Installing conduit circuits and outlets is simple and cheap; no charge stations needed.
  • 2manyvettes Tadge was at the Corvette Corral at the Rolex 24 hour sports car race at the end of January 2023. During the Q&A after his remarks someone stood up and told him "I will never buy an electric Corvette." His response? "I will never sell you an electric Corvette." Take that Fwiw.
  • Socrates77 They're pinching pennies for the investors like always, greed has turned GM into a joke of an old corporate American greed.
  • Analoggrotto looking at this takes me right back to the year when “CD-ROM” first entered public lexicon
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