Musk Opens Up Over Model 3 Progress, Television Cameras Enter Fremont Facility

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

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)]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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4 of 39 comments
  • Incautious Incautious on Apr 16, 2018

    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.

  • ABC-2000 ABC-2000 on Apr 16, 2018

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

    • See 1 previous
    • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Apr 16, 2018

      $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.

  • RobbyG $100k+...for a Jeep. Are they selling these in fantasy land?Twin turbo V-6 paired to an 8-speed transmission. Yet still only gets 14mpg.Whatever money you think you would save over a V-8 will be spent 2-3x amount fixing these things when they blow up.
  • Alan Well the manufacturers are catching up with stocks. This means shortages of parts is reducing. Stocks are building around the world even Australia and last year had the most vehicles ever sold here.
  • Larry You neglected to mention that the 2024 Atlas has a US Government 5-Star Safety Rating.
  • Alan Why is it that Toyota and Nissan beat their large SUVs (Patrol/300 Series) with an ugly stick and say they are upmarket? Whilst they are beating the vehicles with an ugly stick they reduce the off road ability rather than improve it.As I've stated in previous comments you are far better off waiting for the Patrol to arrive than buy an overpriced vehicle.
  • Alan How many people do you see with a 4x4 running mud tyres? How many people do you see with a 4x4 running massive rims and low profile tyres? How many people have oversize mirrors for towing once in a blue moon? How many 4x4s do you see lifted? How many people care what tyres they run to save fuel? The most comfortable tyres are more or less the most economical.