In April, Elon Musk admitted that Tesla shot himself in the foot, trying to over-automate his production process.
Tesla got there because Musk had ordered the engineers to figure out how to "automate everything" for the production of the Model 3, the electric car he wanted to sell on the mass market for $ 35,000. Musk insisted on automation due to concerns from his team, who warned that robots were not well suited for certain production steps, such as attaching gaskets to car doors, CNBC reported yesterday (October 19). The expensive robots that Tesla had bought for the job never worked properly and were taken out of service over the summer.
If Musk's Mea Culpa was unusual in April, his transgression was anything but. The incident in automation is "emblematic" of Musk's leadership style, CNBC reported:
Interviews with 35 current and former employees show an ambitious CEO whose efforts to make everything from scratch affected his decisions and failed to approve expensive projects and delayed production. They also described cases in which Musk refused to reflect on methods developed by other automakers and ignored advice from industry veterans in Tesla's ranks.
Musk insisted on other time-consuming and costly projects that included the "Vision System" and the "Magic Carpet". The former has been developed to accelerate the quality checks for fully assembled models 3. High-resolution cameras snapped photos of finished cars and sent them to inspectors in another part of the factory to approve or remotely tag them. But former employees told CNBC that the cameras do not always have a clear view of important parts and also stand in the way of the workers.
The "magic carpet" was supposed to be a software-controlled conveyor belt that moved parts of model 3 production workers. Tesla was reportedly planning to spend $ 40 million on the project and hired 20 engineers for three months, but the system never worked.
Tesla was also forced by Musk's micromanagement and perseverance to do things differently from traditional automakers. Musk rejected everything from organizational methods to industry terminology used by companies such as GM and Toyota, CNBC reported, preferring that Tesla developed its own approach. Musk also urged Tesla to build its own software instead of relying on corporate programs from companies like SAP. Employees told CNBC that programs are often incomplete and information may be lost among many different systems.
Tesla's goal was to produce more than 5,000 Model 3 vehicles per week in the third quarter. But the $ 45,000 sticker price is a long way from this $ 35,000 target (Tesla argues that the true cost is closer to $ 30,000, considering federal tax incentives, government rebates, and gas savings). The company does not produce the 500,000 electric cars that Musk predicts for 201