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