By on April 15, 2018

Tesla Motors is months behind schedule. Despite promises that Model 3 production would be humming along by the end of last year, the automaker has found itself bogged down by all kinds of delays. In March, the company’s problems were exacerbated by a voluntarily recall on 123,000 Model S sedans and another high-profile crash involving its Autopilot system.

This has shaken investors’ previously unwavering faith in Tesla, and forced a significant dip in its overall share price. Last month, the company’s stock valuation took a hit that it’s just now starting to come back from. But Tesla CEO Elon Musk knows he cannot simply dazzle shareholders with new ideas and promises, and has been camping out at the factory in Fremont, California, to prove his resolve and engage in some on-sight troubleshooting.

While he has mentioned his office sleeping-bag before, we actually got to see it in a recent interview he had with CBS This Morning host Gayle King — along with the rest of the factory. Musk invited CBS to come and see the plant and discuss Tesla’s current status, providing a rare glimpse of the facility. Normally, the automaker is incredibly strict in terms of who it allows inside and no network television crew has ever been able to film the assembly process. 

Clearly tired, Musk remained humble throughout the interview. “I’m definitely under stress, so if I seem like I’m not under stress then I’m gonna be clear, I’m definitely under stress,” Musk told King. When asked if he knew all of what “production hell” would entail when he playfully made the claim last year, Musk responded with, “No. It’s worse than I thought.”


“We got complacent about some things that we felt were our core technology. We put too much technology into the Model 3 all at once. This should have been staged,” he said before going on to blame the factory’s automated assembly line for some of the production holdups. “We had this crazy, complex network of conveyor belts and it was not working, so we got rid of that whole thing.”

Musk has placed himself personally in charge of the line’s duties since the start of April and says he has been sleeping in the factory somewhat regularly. It’s his belief that the extra effort has paid off. Production still hasn’t hit the 2,500 unit per week benchmark yet but Elon believes it’s on track to meet that goal again.

“We were able to unlock some of the critical things that were holding us back from reaching 2,000 cars a week. But since then, we’ve continued to do 2,000 cars a week,” he said. “We’ll probably have, I don’t know, a three or four-fold increase in Model 3 output in the second quarter.”

When questioned about the April Fool’s joke that got him into hot water with worried investors and media outlets, he suggested everyone should lighten up. “It should be pretty obvious, I think, that I’m not going to joke about bankruptcy if I think it’s remotely real,” Musk said.

[Image: Maurizio Pesce/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)]

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39 Comments on “Musk Opens Up Over Model 3 Progress, Television Cameras Enter Fremont Facility...”

  • avatar

    Just to make sure Elon won’t get any sleep tonight, investors have brought a class action lawsuit against Musk and Tesla Motors for making false claims about Model 3 production schedules time and again, resulting in stock losses when the truth became known. Tesla Motors must have the busiest staff of lawyers of any corporation since ENRON. Now come calls for Tesla to ditch its Autopilot system and return the money to the customers.

    • 0 avatar

      I guess I’d have to read the article on the suit, but it sure seems strange. You can sue because the company you invested in, isn’t performing? I suspect they’re going to claim Elon defrauded them somehow.

      • 0 avatar

        Won’t be the first time

        The more recent one

        Though if anyone was paying attention around the first week of April they could have gotten a clean 20% (before tax) return on their money in a week. I know I did. LOL thanks Elon.

    • 0 avatar

      But…but…Safe Harbor! “Forward-looking statements”!

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Autopilot works until it doesn’t.

      Like it or not, that’s the definition of SAE autonomy Level 2. Drivers become distracted at their own peril. Suing Tesla over Autopilot is moot, despite the tragedies associated with it.

      What really should happen is a ban on SAE Level 2, at least.

      • 0 avatar

        Or at least an understanding of Level 2.

        • 0 avatar

          Wait–you’re asking that people bother to learn about and have an understanding of their cars and how they operate? The 5000 pound missiles they’re in charge of while they stare at their phones? Or in this case, the giant iPad in the center of the console?

          Go onto ANY car forum, and you’ll quickly find out how many people have never, ever read their owners manuals–and come into the forums asking how *very* basic functions work. How about the Prius driver who didn’t know what those “funny red buttons” by the door handle were? (Inside door lock buttons, which he “didn’t know it had”.)

          Or how about the GTI owner who was complaining, 2 years later, that “my car doesn’t lock the doors when I walk away like my Mazda did”. Days later in the discussion he reveals that he never knew about touching the door handle to lock it–he just assumed he had to take the remote out of his pocket and hit the lock button, because he had no idea how the whole keyless entry thing worked.

          And in most cases, you’ll find such people being defensive about their ignorance. “Nobody told me!” “The dealer should have told me that!” “Read an owner’s manual? Who does that? What are you, lame?”

          And now you ask owners to have an “understanding” of a technology that, when compared to keyless access, is like understanding how to fly the Space Shuttle?

          While the direct responsibility lies with the driver–don’t operate the car if you don’t know how it works–the core problem lies with society allowing such technology on public roads.

          And all in the context of “but it’s cool! it’s Musk! it’s a Tesla! Big giant iPhone screen! Shiny!”

          And look the case of the Apple engineer who just killed himself–he KNEW from previous experience that the car couldn’t be trusted at that spot. Hell, the first time the car tried to kill me I would turn off EVERY automatic function and just drive the car.

          The tech world can kill themselves for all I care, but let them keep their tech off the public roads.

          • 0 avatar

            I sell equipment, owners buy 250k wonder machine, I’m back in two months showing the new employee how to run it.

          • 0 avatar

            “I sell equipment, owners buy 250k wonder machine, I’m back in two months showing the new employee how to run it.”

            Yeah, I sell quarter million dollar manufacturing systems. Owner changes operators, or pays indifferent operator three bucks an hour to run it, and then blames us for his inability to make a profit.

          • 0 avatar

            RTFM ?

            You funny man.

        • 0 avatar

          I understand donuts are bad for me, and for 90% of the time, I can walk by one and not give it a second thought. On a hypothetical day when I’ve been micro-managed, received a large unexpected bill in the mail, and discovered my car battery was dead…. guess what? 100% chance I would eat the donut.

          The driver / passenger in the car might have been foolishly texting, or perhaps reading an important message from his wife. We don’t know.

          What we do know is that human nature and level 2 autonomy don’t mix well. I agree with @SCE — it shouldn’t be out there in the first place.

  • avatar

    Unleash the hounds of Musk haters!

    • 0 avatar

      Haters? Hardly.

      GM figured out way back in the 1980s that you couldn’t just blindly automate processes, assuming that it would be faster than a human operator.

      So Musk is about 30 years behind General Motors when it comes to figuring out how to build things.

      That’s not hate; that’s fact.

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    *Normally, the automaker is incredibly strict in terms of who it allows inside and no network television crew has ever been able to film the assembly process. *

    Enter the P.R. corps.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Mixed feelings here.

    CBS might be impressed with the CEO sleeping on site to solve problems, but that really indicates several core issues:

    1. He doesn’t trust his own people to resolve these things, or
    2. He hasn’t hired the right people, or
    3. He’s really been out of touch.

    4. He still believes that micromanagement is the key to success.
    5. He has obviously overestimated the ability of a new production line to ramp up.
    6. His statement about the complexity of the Model 3 was followed by comments about the production line, not the car. But it sounded eerily reminiscent of his comments about the Model X falcon wing doors.

    On the other hand, he seems to keep learning lessons in humility, which is good. If the Model 3 had normal controls and gauges, and slightly lower price, I’d still be in. But those things, plus the quality issues, have caused many customers to cancel.

    No questions from CBS about the quality problems or how many people remain in the queue, but still pretty interesting.

    Regardless of the overpromises on Model 3 production, it will still be the best-selling EV in the world this year, by far. Leaf and Bolt won’t even be close.

    • 0 avatar

      It depends. If he really is micromanaging the process, I agree.

      If he’s simply showing everyone that he’s willing to sacrifice more than he expect his staff to sacrifices, then props to him.

      I suspect it’s a bit of both.

      • 0 avatar

        @brn: I think you are right. He does seem to be able to avoid micromanaging SpaceX. They’re doing fine and he seems to trust their CEO to run things.

        @SCE: For me, if it had some of the missing functionality on the steering wheel, I’d be okay with it. I haven’t had time to check out a model 3 yet. Maybe at some point, I will.

        At the 3’s price level, I could probably pick up a Mercedes EQC. The EQC will probably have the EV incentive that would bring it down in price. I’ve read rumors that it will be $55k, so that would bring it down to $45k. Probably will be some good leasing deals for it. It might be a good option if I decide to wait out and see if there is an S version of the Mission E or if there are long waits for it.

  • avatar

    He needs to engineer and build platforms, not cars. Platforms that he can sell/license to GM, Ford, Toyota, Honda–people who know how to make, sell, and service actual cars that actual people drive every day.

  • avatar

    “While he has mentioned his office sleeping-bag before, we actually got to see it”

    I once worked for a company owned by a stress fueled micro-manager who had a sleeping bag and bed on site. On one annual inspection by the fire marshals they told him to remove it as it was a safety hazard; not sure if they meant the bed was a fire hazard or just the safety of everyone else was at risk if he was there 24/7.

    • 0 avatar

      There are a whole different set of fire/life-safety standards for buildings with sleeping quarters in them, which a typical office or industrial building doesn’t meet. So the fire marshal was correct.

  • avatar

    An American entrepreneur building American cars getting his fanny kicked.

  • avatar

    Musk is a real life Hank Rearden.

  • avatar

    Best and brightest: might this end with Tesla declaring bankruptcy, after which Tesla is bought up. Then after being freed from debt and Musk, it becomes a very successful brand…?

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    You can bet if Musk is sleeping in the factory, he expects all his senior managers to be doing the same, and so on down through the exempt/professional ranks. I’m glad I don’t work there.

  • avatar

    Fact is that hundreds of thousands of people signed up hoping to get a model 3 for $27,000 with the tax incentive. That will never happen, as those incentives expire around July for all Tesla’s. With a cancellation rate of about 70% on the model3 it won’t take to long to get through the backlog. Quite honestly the model 3 should be banned from the road. This car with its giant touch screen brings a whole new meaning to distracted driver.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      “With a cancellation rate of about 70%…”

      If *you* know this, why don’t the shareholders? The Model 3 is the company’s only hope. I’ve heard it’s more like 20%.

  • avatar

    Tesla is the number one shorted stock in the US, with nearly $11BILLION short. So the share holders aren’t exactly giving a vote of confidence now are they.(PS I AM a shareholder of Tesla through Baron funds)I’ve purchased puts to protect myself.
    If there were only 20% cancellations on the 3 why is taking at least 3 months for a refund? Tesla promised 7DAYS. Sorry feed up with all the Musk BS. He did an amazing thing, but Tucker, Bricklin ,Delorean show the path is fraught with doom.

  • avatar

    Per Bloomberg, Tesla is now selling more Model 3’s than Chevy is selling Bolts and Volts *combined,* and Tesla still has a huge waiting list to work through. Yes, people expecting that the base model would happen in their lifetime are defecting to Bolts (which has caused the lease price of a Bolt to *double* in m state), but the current rate of Model 3 production is holding steady at a good clip, so I think Tesla is going to be okay, and that’s good news for all of us who like more choices in cars.

  • avatar

    I wonder if Elon took lessons from North Korea prior to letting the cameras in. Seems like something he would do.

    Did they show his “bedroom” on camera?

  • avatar

    Bloomberg reports builds not sales, and that is an approximation. Over the last 5 months which is how long the 3 has been for sale, there were just over 4000 sales reported by good car bad car. Over that same 5 month period there were about 16,000 volt/bolt sales. Total bolt/volt sales over 13 months is about 50,000 sales which no doubt some are conquest sales of the 3. Still Tesla 3 is ramping up and the 2600 or so built this week will be sales in short order.Still with the $7500 tax credit expiring in July and other manufacturers offering their own alternatives is going to be a tough road for Musk and Co.

  • avatar

    Can we stop calling this model 3 “affordable”?
    Consumer Reports just bought one for 59K !

    • 0 avatar

      Everything is relative.

      Folks in NorCal spend that much for a runabout for the nanny and a pickup for the gardener.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      $59k with the Autopilot option, certainly.

      To be fair, though, the cheapest one you can get right now is $49k. $59k represents the high end of Model 3 pricing, just as I can get a Camry for 40-something.

      On the other hand, the average transaction price for pickups – the best-selling vehicle in the US, is north of $40k, and cars are mid-30s.

      “Affordable” is certainly in the eye of the beholder, but statistically-speaking, the Model 3 is not affordable.

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