With three assembly lines working 24 hours a day, the Tesla Motors plant in Fremont, California churned out 5,031 Model 3 sedans in the last seven days of June, hitting a long-promised target that had pulled the company into what founder and CEO Elon Musk described as “production hell”.
“We either found a way or, by will and inventiveness, created entirely new solutions that were thought impossible,” Musk said Sunday in an email to employees.
“I think we just became a real car company.”
Tesla “is counting on the Model 3, its first mass-market vehicle, to increase revenue and offset the billions of dollars it has been spending to set up a huge battery plant in Nevada and begin making the Model 3,” the New York Times reports. But the company “has been struggling with bottlenecks and other glitches in its Model 3 assembly process. Mr. Musk had once foreseen making 20,000 Model 3s a month by last December, but in the entire fourth quarter Tesla produced fewer than 2,500. Since then it has refrained from making annual projections for the vehicle.”
To reach the 5,000-per-week milestone, the Times says Tesla “streamlined its production line” by replacing “complicated robotic machinery” with human workers, and built an outdoor tent to speed up final assembly of the cars. About 20% of the Model 3s produced last week came from the tent, and Tesla produced about 2,000 Model S luxury sedans and Model X SUVs in addition to the 5,000 Model 3s.
Now, “Tesla’s challenge is to prove that it can produce more than 5,000 Model 3s week after week,” the Times writes. “Automakers typically cannot run plants around the clock for long periods because they need to stop production to maintain the machinery. Workers also become fatigued if required to work six or seven days a week. Nonetheless, Tesla said it expected to produce 6,000 Model 3s a week by late next month.”
Kelley Blue Book senior analyst Karl Brauer wasn’t entirely sold on that promise.
“I don’t know if the numbers really represent reality or sustainability,” he told the Times. “You have to keep a critical eye on them. There is a history with Tesla, and we’ve been told a lot of things about Model 3 targets in the last year that haven’t proven accurate.”