Tesla’s early production of the Model 3 has been referred to as “production hell” on many occasions. Elon Musk was sleeping at the Fremont factory, a makeshift tent was erected outside of the plant to make room for the mass-market sedan, and intense production bottlenecks made the process an unforgettable one.
But with adversity comes triumph, and Sandy Munro says that Tesla has benefitted from “production hell.” It may be tough to imagine that anything good could have come out of that Summer, but plenty did.
“In some cases, I think that in some areas of the [Model 3], Tesla is 10 years ahead, especially when it comes to the manufacturing,” Munro said during a conference with Bernstein last week, according to Business Insider.
Because of Tesla’s early struggles with production, the company has erupted into a powerhouse of automotive innovation and efficiency. “I don’t think they really quite understood or grasped the concept of making cars at production speeds,” Munro said.
One of the main bottlenecks was Musk’s focus on automation, according to Munro. “They ripped out a lot of robots. I think that Elon thought that somehow robots could take over everything, but in actuality, that’s been proven wrong in many, many cases,” he said.
Musk took his focus away from automation for the time being and realized the importance of the hard-working men and women who are fabricating and piecing together the all-electric cars daily. “Humans are underrated,” he said in a Tweet in 2018.
Tesla’s advantage does not come from stressing the importance of humans, however. Munro believes the company’s vertical integration is much more critical to the operation than many people think.
“So what Tesla’s done is it’s cranked out a product that’s probably 90%, 95% there. But they’ve got so many ways of investigating what’s going on in each car all the time that the feedback can say ‘Hey, what I think what we should do is X. Let’s make that engineering change and implement it on the vehicles from here going forward, and if or when a customer has a problem, bingo, we don’t know how to solve it, or we’ll replace the parts.'”
This mentality has been evident for some time, especially in terms of small additions or modifications that Tesla makes to its cars. If something is needed, they add it. Wireless chargers, for example, started appearing in the Model X just a month into the new year. There was no large announcement or coordinated effort to let people know. Tesla knew it was necessary, so it was added.
Years ago, when Munro performed a teardown of the Model 3, he stated that the car was a key factor in Tesla’s lead. “Tesla with the Model 3 was probably five to eight years ahead of everybody else,” he said. That lead has increased, and with car companies still not focusing specifically on EVs, the advantage will likely continue to widen as Tesla makes significant strides forward.