Posted on May 08, 2016 by Matt Pressman
When Tesla Motors [NASDAQ: TSLA] doubled-down stating "given the demand for Model 3, we have decided to advance our 500,000 total unit build plan (combined for Model S, Model X, and Model 3) to 2018, two years earlier than previously planned," observers were shocked. Could the Tesla Model 3 really be production-ready that quickly to make such a bold prediction? Well... let's not forget that Model 3 was planned for a long time ago. Heck, it was announced ten years ago in Elon Musk's 2006 blog post, The Secret Tesla Motors Master Plan (just between you and me). And, TeslaCentral explains, "to give you an idea of how long the Model 3 has been incubating at Tesla, here's a full-size clay model of the car that Tesla put into a recruitment video. In 2010."
Above: Striking similarities between an older 2010 clay modeling of the Model 3 versus a recent photo (Reddit: TheKobayashiMoron via Tesla Motors)
Its reported that, "In September 2010, when this video was posted (jump to 1:22 for the Model 3 clay model), the only vehicle Tesla was producing was the Roadster, a heavily modified electrified Lotus Elise. The Model S had [already] been announced in 2008 and prototypes of it are seen in the video." That clay model has been floating around the Tesla forums for years hinting at what the Model 3 might look like once revealed.
Sure, there have been plenty of tweaks to the car's design since that clay model, but, it's plausible that production planning is much further along than many might believe. Tesla CEO Elon Musk explained that the intent with the Tesla Model 3 was to, "design the car to be easy to make." He also described rapid progress noting that already, "the production [Model 3] drivetrain was being used at the launch event." He predicts Model 3 deliveries towards the end of 2017 but noted that July 1st is the internal date Tesla is holding suppliers to in order to be production ready.
Above: Elon Musk showing the inner workings of Model 3 during launch event (Image: InsideEVs)
CleanTechnica also noted that, "Between now and end of 2017, Tesla is getting all of the suppliers on board and very closely watching their ability to ramp, as well as tooling up its own manufacturing facilities. Specifically asked about the need for new tools for the Model 3 production, Elon said, “if you can make a human baby in 9 months, you can make a tool in 9 months, so that’s our expectation.”
Above: Musk will be putting pressure on suppliers to perform (Image: Super Uber)
Furthermore, Teslamondo points out that Musk stated, "The quality and the motivation of the suppliers involved in the program is the best ever. Every supplier wants to be in this program... [and Tesla is] also increasing the scope of our in-house abilities, so that if there’s a supplier that isn’t able to deliver on time, we can scramble fast and produce that component in house."
Above: Tesla Model 3 photographed at the Gigafactory (Image: Motor Trend)
Furthermore, Musk explained that Tesla is being, "rigorous about ensuring that we don’t have anything that isn’t really necessary to make a very compelling version one of the car. We also have a much tighter feedback loop between design engineering, production engineering and production. And so no element of Model 3 can be approved unless manufacturing has said that this is easy to manufacture, and that the risk associated with manufacturing is low."
Above: The launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 carrying a Japanese communications satellite to orbit (Source: Slate via SpaceX)
Still don't believe Elon Musk can get Tesla's Model 3 production ramp ready in time for his forecast? Don't forget that Musk's other company, SpaceX, just nailed its most difficult landing yet, "On Friday morning, May 6, 2016, at 05:21 UTC, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket roared away from its launch pad in Florida, carrying a Japanese satellite into orbit. Eight minutes and 40 seconds later, the first stage booster set down on a barge in the Atlantic Ocean, marking the third time the company had managed to land a booster after launch, and the second time at sea." Even Musk himself, "gave the odds of a successful landing at 50/50."
Yes, sometimes Musk's predictions might seem out of this world. But, against all odds, he's proven time and time again... to make the impossible... possible.