Tesla - a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma
Yes, I know that the famous phrase was first quoted in 1939 by Winston Churchill as he vainly sought to understand Russia, but doesn’t it also adequately describe the goings-on at Tesla, or am I the only one who finds things at the Californian carmaker a little... weird?
Some three months ago, I wrote in this column about how production of the company’s Model 3 saloon had been suspended twice, and that the promised output of 5,000 cars a week had fallen to around the 2.000 mark. There were also dark mutterings about instances of sabotage. Well, guess what! In the final week of the second quarter of the year they did it. They produced 5,031 Model 3’s, hitting a target that Tesla CEO Elon Musk had claimed was critical to the company’s cash generation and profit earnings. The thing is, this level of production wasn’t achieved by what you might describe as conventional means. Conventional is not a word which is readily associated with Mr. Musk. In this case, around 20% of the output was manufactured in a tent!
The ever-resourceful Musk had ordered a makeshift assembly line to be constructed under canvas just outside the Fremont factory, and it was from here that the five thousandth Model 3 first saw daylight. Bravo say I. As an example of lateral thinking this takes some beating. But wait a minute. Just how sustainable is this exercise? You can’t really envisage it happening in too many states other than California. Nor can you imagine it in any season other than high summer. Was it simply an admittedly successful headline-grabber? Was it done to pacify the financial markets? Did Mr. Musk transfer his sleeping bag to the new facility?
Apparently one Tesla worker described the atmosphere on the new assembly line as being “all hands on deck.” Reports also suggest that workers were transferred from other production areas and rest breaks staggered so that the magic number could be achieved. It all smacks of being something of a publicity stunt. You really can’t see it continuing for much longer. Unless, of course, Musk pulls another rabbit out of his hat. I wouldn’t put it past him. Maybe United Kingdom Prime Minister Teresa May should give him a call to ask if he has any bright ideas about Brexit.
Simon Duval Smith
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