We’ve debated Tesla Motors’ production ramp-up in the past, coming to the obvious conclusion that the automaker has a long road ahead of it before its proposedÂ volume goals can be reached. The company knows this and Elon Musk has repeatedly said scaling up Tesla’s vehicle assembly will be akin to a kind of “production hell.”
However, we haven’t done a comparative analysis to extrapolate just how ambitious Tesla’s targets truly are. Half a million vehicles by next year is a lot of annual production for any fledgling automaker. We assumed the company would do its best and we’d see how close it came to the bar at a later date. But, with the Model 3 productionÂ getting off to an incredibly slow start, it’s worth looking at how far Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, will have to climb to achieve the desired numbers.
It isn’t looking particularly good in the short term.Â
According to an analysis of U.S. automotive factories from IHS Markit, Fremont was ranked 65th in terms of production volume in 2016. In order to hit its 2018 target of 500,000 units, it would need to become 2nd in the country. As impossible as that sounds, Tesla does have a few things going for it.
First of all,Â the Fremont facility is capable of some big numbers. While it has never hit half a million units, it did manageÂ 428,636 vehicles in 2006Â â€” back when it was still building the Toyota Corolla and Pontiac Vibe. There’s also nearly twice as many employees there now than when the plant existed as a joint venture between Toyota and General Motors.
However, Tesla wants to built a million cars per year by 2020, and that will require at least one more facility â€” which could be located in China. There is also a disparity between what the company told its investors about product volume and what it wrote on tax exemption documents at the start of this year. ConsideringÂ Teals only builtÂ 260 Model 3 sedans in the third quarter, after setting a goal of 1,500, we’re beginning to wonder how seriously it is taking this production increase. Elon Musk has, of course, concluded there is nothing to be worried about.
â€œMusk is a Category Five breath of fresh air in an industry that really wants to be stodgy and boring,â€� James Womack, the founder of the corporate think tank Lean Enterprise Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, told Bloomberg in an interview. â€œBut itâ€™s a tough trick to launch a new product, a new manufacturing system and a new company, and to make it all work in a crazy, crack-brain schedule that Musk may never have believed in to begin with.â€�
For the company’s sake, hopefully Tesla can figure out how to get the ball rolling on this production ramp-up, but we aren’t holding our breath. The automaker will do what it can and we’ll see how its promises measure up to reality next year.
[Image: Tesla Motors]