Posted on April 03, 2018 by Matt Pressman
As the media barrage of negative news continues to descend upon Tesla, it's worth noting one critical observation (via CleanTechnica). According to Maarten Vinkhuyzen, "The whole world is talking about Tesla’s inability to produce cars, Elon Musk’s unrealistic timelines, and 'broken promises.' But the facts are different." Consider the following: "Fact — 9 months after start of the assembly line, GM had produced about a 1,000 Bolts. Fact — 9 months after start of the assembly line, Tesla had produced about 10,000 Model 3."
Above: Tesla Model 3 vehicles ready for delivery to customers (Source: Street Insider)
Vinkhuyzen chalks up a lot of this bad mouthing in the media to bad PR at Tesla. After all, "in the real world, the Model 3 ramp is as good or better than the Chevy Bolt ramp... The 'broken promises' are hopes and expectations Musk vented when talking to the press, and Twitter remarks taken out of context." Elon Musk's moonshot approach may (indeed) help speed things up with factory staff. That said, it can be fodder for Tesla shorts in their ongoing crusade against Musk.
Vinkhuyzen notes, "The problem in production is mostly a problem in communication. Tesla is doing things differently from others in the car industry. Using different words to describe those actions. That results in confusion among car journalists, car financial analysts, and the public at large."
Above: Chevy Bolt on the factory floor (Source: CleanTechnica)
Comparing the Model 3 and Bolt, "GM is using an existing assembly line with a trained workforce. After six months, it is functioning well enough to call it the start of production. In the ninth month, GM delivered its first batch of 579 cars to customers. With the cars delivered to employees and the cars in transit to their dealers, about 1,000 Bolts produced in the first nine months is a reasonable guess."
In contrast, "Tesla used a brand new production line and a freshly hired workforce... After one month, they delivered their first 30 cars. And then the predicted and expected problems started to appear. As Tesla has often said, which has been forgotten as often — they know where they start (on the first of July), and they know where they end (with 5,000 cars per week), but the middle period is highly uncertain. The line is designed for 5,000 cars per week, and sooner or later it will work as designed. What is not known, and can not be known, is the rate of improvement and the time that it will take."
Above: Tesla Model 3 vehicles on delivery truck (Source: Torque News)
Vinkhuyzen acknowledges, "Does this mean Tesla is 10 times as good at producing cars as GM? Not really. The Tesla line is designed to produce 10 times as many cars. Having produced 10 times as many as GM is expected." On the other hand, "does this mean Tesla and GM are just the same in car making? Also not really. Tesla did have a more difficult route with a new assembly line and a new workforce."
In conclusion, "It took GM 15 months before the Bolt was produced at the rate that was intended. And this was so normal that not a single journalist wrote a long article about the Bolt production problems. If Tesla succeeds in coming close to 5,000 at the end of the second quarter, using only 12 months to go from zero to full speed, that would be exceptional. If they need a few more months, that would be normal."