A report in Reuters Tuesday sheds light on the frenzied final weeks of Tesla’s all-out push to reach a production target of 5,000 Model 3s per week by the end of June.
Workers claim CEO Elon Musk became agitated whenever the company’s Fremont, California production lines slowed or stopped due to robot issues, employees were pulled off the Model S line to cover Model 3 workers’ breaks, and longer hours with little advance notice became the norm.
Ultimately, Tesla was able to boast of building 5,031 Model 3s in the last seven days of June. But another report raises the question of whether Tesla skipped an important step in the production process in order to reach its goal.
A source familiar with the goings-ons within Fremont told Business Insider that Tesla abruptly ended brake and roll testing of near-completed vehicles. The test was cancelled at 3 a.m. on Tuesday, June 26th, the source claims. Documents sent to the publication show the range of tests involved in this step — tests no longer listed as “critical.”
Brake and roll testing ensures that vehicles leaving the factory display even braking force at each wheel, proper wheel balance, coasting drag, and speed sensor calibration. It isn’t known why this step was cancelled when it was, or who ordered it.
“To be extremely clear, we drive *every* Model 3 on our test track to verify braking, torque, squeal and rattle. There are no exceptions,” said Tesla spokesperson Dave Arnold in a statement to Business Insider. Arnold wouldn’t comment further on the test, including the question of whether Musk ordered it removed.
The same source also questions whether Tesla’s Model 3 production figure is accurate. Tesla’s claim that it “factory gated” 5,000 vehicles could hide the possibility that an unknown number of vehicles were actually built a week prior, but were held back for rework. Once the work wrapped up, those vehicles could have been added to the final week’s factory gating tally. Arnold claims this is irrelevant.
In a message sent to the publication, Arnold said “a small number of cars are built during a week, but factory-gated the following week, just as a small number of cars built the prior week may not be factory-gated until the following week. Both of those points are true for this last week of production, just as it is true every week. We are reporting our production numbers the same way as we always have.”
Both reports again raise the question of whether Tesla can sustain this level of production without burning out employees and machines. The company says it expects to reach 6,000 Model 3s per week by the end of August.
Even if it does manage to build that many Model 3s, one worker told Reuters that a traffic jam going into the plant’s paint shop (where Model 3s had apparently been given priority), as well as the need to pull workers off the Model S line, resulted in Model S output falling 800 vehicles short.