Elon Musk says Tesla relied on too many robots to build the Model 3, which is partly to blame for the delays in manufacturing the crucial mass-market electric car. In an interview with CBS Good Morning, Musk agreed with Teslas critics that there was over-reliance on automation and too few human assembly line workers building the Model 3. Earlier this month, Tesla announced that it had officially missed its goal of making 2,500 Model 3 vehicles a week by the end of the first financial quarter of this year. It will start the second quarter making just 2,000 Model 3s per week, but the company says it still believes it can get to a rate of 5,000 Model 3s per week at the midway point of 2018. Previously, Tesla has blamed bottlenecks in the production of the Model 3s batteries at the companys Gigafactory for the delays. But in a wide-ranging (and largely positive) interview with CBSs Gayle King, Musk also admits it was Teslas over-reliance on robots in the production. Musk then said the company needs more people working in the factory and that automation slowed the Model 3 production process. He alluded to a crazy, complex network of conveyor belts the company had previously used and said the company eliminated it after it became clear it wasnt working. Its a fairly stunning admission from the man who previously likened his companys massive factory to an alien dreadnought thanks to the complex assemblage of advanced robotic arms building its line of electric cars. In an earnings call with investors last year, Musk spoke about the production speeds facilitated by Teslas robots. Its remarkable how much can be done by just beating up robots ... adding additional robots at choke points and just making lines go really, really fast, he said. Speed is the ultimate weapon. Last year, Tesla acquired Perbix, a private machining firm that makes automated equipment for factories, allowing the carmaker to bring the production of more parts in-house. Tesla described the deal as a step further in its long-stated ambition to build the machine that makes the machine. In fact, Musk was so confident that Tesla had gotten right the mix of robots and humans that its giant Gigafactory would become the companys ultimate product. The competitive strength of Tesla long-term is not going to be the car, its going to be the factory, he said last February. Were going to productize the factory. Musk is also one of the foremost voices urging caution in the development of robotics and artificial intelligence. He has called for governments to regulate AI to prevent the technology from threatening human existence, and has warned for a coming AI apocalypse. Also in the interview, Musk said the Model 3s technical complexities were additionally to blame for the companys ongoing production hell. We got complacent about some of the things we felt were our core technology, we put too much new technology into the Model 3 all at once, Musk said. A spokesperson for Tesla declined to clarify Musks comments. While aesthetically more minimal than the Model S or X, the Model 3 uses 2170 lithium-ion battery cells, which are more complex than the industry-standard 18650 battery cells used in the Model S and X. Musk previously confirmed that Teslas Gigafactory 1 in Nevada was the source for the production bottlenecks slowing Model 3 deliveries. Panasonic, Teslas battery cell manufacturing partner at the factory, has also confirmed this. To be sure, Musk has used the too much technology excuse before. In 2016, he owned up to the problems with production of the Model X, telling an audience of Tesla shareholders, This [Model X] program has been challenging. I particularly need to fault myself for a fair bit of hubris for putting too much technology all at once into a product. The Model 3, he said, would not have as much technology as the Model S and X. Now Musk said he has taken over production of the Model 3, sleeping at Teslas Fremont factory in an effort to keep tabs on the vehicles rollout. In the interview, he shows King the conference room where he sleeps. A pillow and sleeping bag can be seen in the shot. King calls the couch not even [...] comfortable.
Elon Musk has a fairly consistent message for all the haters and doubters and gossips and journalists and investment bankers and analysts who think Tesla is about to hit a massive financial wall: Suck it. In a tweet today, Musk again insisted that the many reports — the latest coming from The Economist — claiming Tesla will have to raise at least $2 billion this year are baloney. Why? Because he says the company is going to turn a profit in the second half of 2018. The Economist used to be boring, but smart with a wicked dry wit. Now its just boring (sigh). Tesla will be profitable & cash flow+ in Q3 & Q4, so obv no need to raise money. In the report, the Economist offered up a scathing review of how far short Tesla has fallen in terms of its production promises for the Model 3: Alas, Tesla has repeatedly failed to meet its own targets… In July 2017 Mr Musk claimed that his firm would be cranking out 20,000 Model 3s per month by December of that year. In fact, it managed to produce fewer than 2,500 in the entire final quarter of 2017. He vowed to produce 2,500 Model 3s a week by the end of March, rising to 5,000 a week by the end of June. Despite superhuman efforts by workers and managers (Mr Musk is personally supervising production of the new model and claims to be sleeping at the factory), on April 3rd Tesla confirmed that it is producing only around 2,000 Model 3 saloons a week. This production shortfall had led Moodys credit rating agency to conclude that Tesla would need to raise a bundle this year. Musk is given to brash statements, but this one carries a fair bit of risk. The company is already facing shareholder lawsuits. Now Musk is making a strong, forward-looking statement to investors. If it turns out not to be true, he could end up facing even more legal headaches down the road.