Source: Tesla’s “Pilot” Model 3 Body Line Still In Development Near Detroit

Photos, apparently of a Model 3 “pilot team” in “Area 51,” were subsequently deleted by a now-private Instagram account.

Three months ago Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that production of the new Model 3 in “Aug[ust] should be 100 cars and Sept[ember] above 1500.” But over the following quarter Tesla ended up delivering only 220 of its new more-affordable electric cars, or just 15% of Musk’s guidance. Though Tesla’s delivery press release didn’t identify the cause for this dramatic miss, it did state that

“It is important to emphasize that there are no fundamental issues with the Model 3 production or supply chain. We understand what needs to be fixed and we are confident of addressing the manufacturing bottleneck issues in the near-term.”

What does and does not constitute a “fundamental issue” with the Model 3 production ramp is open to debate, but a source tells Daily Kanban that elements of the Model 3 body line are still in development at the Michigan-based supplier Thai Summit America and not yet installed at Tesla’s Fremont facility.

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Tesla: Production Capacity Of Model 3 To Average 226,563 Units Per Year Over Next Five Years

George Orwell famously wrote that “to see what is front of ones nose takes a constant struggle,” and it turns out that the answer to one of the biggest mysteries in the auto industry has been hanging out directly in front of the public’s nose for some time. In a January 2017 application [PDF] for sales tax exemption (STE) from the CAEATFA program, the California Treasurer revealed that

“Tesla represents the Project will launch the Model 3 and provide the capacity to produce and deliver an average of 226,563 units per year over a five year period, in addition to its Model S and Model X production.”

This revelation provides an unprecedented clarity about Tesla’s production ambitions for its “more-affordable” Model 3 sedan, and contradicts representations that Tesla executives have made in quarterly conference calls with analysts and the media.

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Fremont, You Have A Problem, And It Starts With An M

Of course, this article was not really posthumously written by a Francesco Sagredo who died near 400 years ago. Feel free to speculate about the real face behind Francesco.

Under Elon Musk’s leadership Tesla’s Model X arrived two years late and subjected the company to six months of self described production hell, only to tie for last place in Consumer Reports’ luxury SUV ratings with a score of 59/100 (Nov 2016). Delays for the falcon winged albatross will allow the Chevy Bolt and second-generation Nissan Leaf to both beat the Model 3 to widespread availability by the end of the year. Tesla’s quality has been poor, the UAW is circling, and Mr. Musk recently tweeted about mixing alcohol and Ambien (zolpidem) — a drug combination not only dangerous in its own right, but that increases the risk of long-term zolpidem addiction. How is this man still Tesla’s CEO? [Continue Reading]

Does Autosteer Actually Deserve Credit For a 40% Reduction In Tesla Crashes?

Tesla’s high-flying image, which had been moving from strength to strength since early 2013, hit its biggest speed bump last year when its Autopilot semi-autonomous/Advanced Driver Assist System (ADAS) came under scrutiny in the wake of Joshua Brown’s death. Suddenly Tesla’s pioneering Autopilot system went from being one of the company’s key strengths to being a serious liability that raised troubling questions about the company’s safety culture. Tesla CEO Elon Musk tried to swat away these concerns with what proved to be a set of highly misleading statistics about Autopilot safety, but the issue was not laid to rest until NHTSA closed its investigation with a report that seemed to exonerate Autopilot as a safety risk. With a single sentence, NHTSA shut down the most dangerous PR problem in Tesla’s history:

The data show that the Tesla vehicles crash rate dropped by almost 40 percent after Autosteer installation.

Because NHTSA is the federal authority on automotive safety, with unparalleled resources to assess and investigate safety risks, this single sentence effectively shut down public concerns about Autopilot’s safety. In a terse statement on its company blog, Tesla noted

we appreciate the thoroughness of NHTSA’s report and its conclusion

But how thorough was NHTSA’s investigation, and how accurate was its conclusion? As it turns out, the questions around Autopilot’s safety may not be as settled as Tesla and NHTSA would have you believe.

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Model 3 Reservation Holder Survey Underlines Tesla’s Mass Market Challenge

 

They waited for reservations… will they also wait for service? (image courtesy Investors Business Daily)

Much of the critical coverage of Tesla Motors, both here at Daily Kanban and elsewhere, has focused on issues that Tesla is able to get away with as a small-volume manufacturer serving an affluent, early-adopter market segment. From manufacturing bottlenecks to quality control problems, from inconsistent, hype-happy communication to poor service, Tesla has been able to weather a storm of problems because its customers and fans are so patient with and passionate about the company. But as Tesla moves from expensive, low-volume cars to the mass market Model 3 these problems are taking on a new significance. In part this is because higher volumes increase the likelihood of quality and service problems, and in part it is because mass market customers who depend on a single car for their daily routine are more demanding than luxury car buyers who can always take the Lexus to work if their Tesla is broken.

Given Tesla’s pattern of releasing cars with insufficient testing as well as its chronic quality problems, it’s safe to assume that the Model 3 will face its fair share of issues. Thus, investing in service infrastructure that will allow Tesla to promptly and affordably repair and upgrade high volumes of Model 3 is extremely important. As Bertel has written about at Forbes, Tesla is behind the curve on those investments and it will cost billions to catch them up. Just yesterday a piece by former Tesla employee Evan Niu dramatically illustrated just how far Tesla has to go to improve its service time, which has dragged on for 8 long months in Niu’s case. Now an exclusive study of about 800 Tesla Model 3 reservation holders, EV owners and luxury brand car owners conducted last year on behalf of a major automaker and provided to Daily Kanban by an industry source, reveals why Tesla’s quality and service woes are so critical to the success or failure of the Model 3.

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CA DMV Report Sheds New Light On Misleading Tesla Autonomous Drive Video

On October 20th of last year Tesla Motors published an official blog post announcing an important development:

“as of today, all Tesla vehicles produced in our factory – including Model 3 – will have the hardware needed for full self-driving capability at a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver.”

Tesla backed up this bold claim with a slick video, set to The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black,” which depicted one of the company’s Model X SUVs driving itself from a home in the Bay Area to the company’s headquarters near the Stanford University campus, apparently with no driver input. In a tweet linking to the video, Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk described this demonstration in no uncertain terms:

“Tesla drives itself (no human input at all) thru urban streets to highway to streets, then finds a parking spot”

After months of negative news about Tesla’s Autopilot in the wake of a deadly crash that the system had failed to prevent, the video prompted a return to the fawning, uncritical media coverage that characterized the initial launch of Autopilot. And by advertising a new sensor suite that made all existing Teslas obsolete, the company was able to bolster demand for its cars even as it discontinued the discounts that had driven sales in the third quarter. Like so many of Tesla’s publicity stunts, the video was a masterpiece of viral marketing that drove the company’s image to new heights… but like so many of Tesla’s publicity stunts it also turns out to have been extremely misleading.

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Tesla Sued For Criminal Hacking

Excerpt from Katz's counter claim

Excerpt from Katz’s counter claim

The always-exciting tale of Tesla Motors took an especially interesting turn back in September, when Forbes reported that the electric automaker was suing a certain Todd Katz for allegedly impersonating Tesla CEO Elon Musk in an email sent to CFO Jason Wheeler. According to Tesla’s lawsuit, Katz sent an email from “[email protected]” to Wheeler on August 3rd, in which he impersonated Musk and sought “material, non-public” and “trade secret” information on behalf of his then-employer, the energy sector services company Quest Integrity, and its oil industry clients. Now Katz is firing back with a counter-suit alleging that Tesla hacked his Twitter account. Lawyers for Katz and Tesla have failed to settle the matter, and the first hearing for the case has been set for January 12th.  Most exciting of all, Katz’s court filings suggest Tesla may have hacked you too.

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Tesla Plans Long-Term Expansion Of Model S & Model X Capacity

teslaplant

Throughout its history, Tesla has always been a company that is looking ahead. Even when the company was hand-assembling tiny volumes of Roadsters, CEO Elon Musk’s “Top Secret Master Plan pointed the way towards lower prices and higher volume. Now, with two vehicles on the market and annual production volumes moving towards the six-figure mark, Musk told analysts on Tesla’s most recent earnings call that lower-cost, higher-volume Model 3 is “overwhelmingly our focus.” As for the Model S and Model X, Tesla’s so-called “Gen 2 vehicles,” Musk says “things feel really quite stable.”

That doesn’t mean that Tesla is done investing in its current lineup, however. In fact, the electric automaker’s latest approved application for sales and use tax exclusion (STE) from the California Alternative Energy and Advanced Transportation Financing Authority (CAEATFA) [PDF of CAEATFA’s staff report here] reveals that it is actually spending nearly half a billion dollars in order to expand the production capacity of its Gen 2 vehicles to 195,000 units per year by approximately 2021.

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