Tesla Giga Shanghai's Model 3 ramp is a secret weapon amidst US plants' shutdown

(Credit: Jason Yang/YouTube)

With a literal pandemic putting a halt to the auto industry’s momentum this year, carmakers across the market are bound to experience a challenging 2020. This is felt even among new automakers such as Tesla, whose US factories have halted operations due to the spread of the coronavirus. Yet despite the company’s headwinds in the United States, Tesla may very well have an ace-in-the-hole for the current quarter, or perhaps even the rest of the year: Gigafactory Shanghai.

It’s pretty poetic that Gigafactory Shanghai has been ignored or outright dismissed by Tesla critics. Over the past year, the massive facility has been mocked for being many things, such as a “Potemkin Village,” a “muddy field,” or an empty building where cars from Fremont are just stored and badged (to name a few). These allegations were ultimately proven false, of course, with Gigafactory 3 entering production before the year ended and conducting customer handovers by January 2020.

Gigafactory Shanghai has continued to achieve milestones, such as a production rate of 3,000 Made-in-China Model 3 per week or about 150,000 vehicles per year. This comes amidst reports that Phase 2 of the factory is already under construction, and that a new Long Range Model 3 variant is set to be released within the next few weeks. Granted, Gigafactory 3 also experienced a shutdown due to the coronavirus, but it was promptly reopened when Shanghai resumed business operations in February. So far, there have been no reports of coronavirus cases among the China factory’s workers as well.

With this in mind, it appears that Tesla China can continue moving at full speed even if the company’s operations in the United States remain in limbo due to the COVID-19 virus. This point seems to have been highlighted by the electric car maker in a recent video that was shared on Chinese social media. The clip was brief at just less than a minute and a half, but it was enough to emphasize one key point: Gigafactory Shanghai is alive, refined, and it is ready to ramp Model 3 production.

The video itself provided a good look at several of Gigafactory Shanghai’s operations, from the smooth stamping of Model 3 panels to the calibration of the all-electric sedan’s Autopilot cameras. Seemingly as a response to criticisms about Tesla’s paint quality, a noticeable portion of the clip was dedicated to Gigafactory 3’s paint shop as well. The facility’s robots were also featured extensively, hinting at the automation that is currently being adopted in the Shanghai-based plant.

If there is something that seems to be hinted at in Tesla China’s recent video, it is that Gigafactory Shanghai may very well be capable of producing over 3,000 Model 3 per week with more optimization. Considering the facility’s efficiency, it would not be surprising if Gigafactory 3 can buffer some of the production that Tesla will lose due to the shutdown of the company’s US factories. Couple this with the fact that the Model Y program has been launched in China, and GF3 might very well become Tesla’s ace-in-the-hole for 2020.

Watch Tesla China’s teaser video of Gigafactory Shanghai’s operations in the video below.

Simon Alvarez: Simon is a reporter with a passion for electric cars and clean energy. Fascinated by the world envisioned by Elon Musk, he hopes to make it to Mars (at least as a tourist) someday.
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