Tesla reaches production milestone, now ‘a real car company’

Tesla Model 3
Miles Branman/Digital Trends

Tesla had a difficult time ramping up production of the Model 3, its long-awaited entry-level model. Chief executive Elon Musk repeatedly called the situation “production hell” but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. The company has finally reached its goal of building at least 5,000 examples of the car in a week.

“I think we just became a real car company,” a jubilant Musk wrote in an email sent to employees and obtained by Reuters.

The firm promised it would reach the 5,000-car-per-week milestone by the end of the second quarter of 2018. It barely missed the deadline, according to two anonymous workers. They reported the 5,000th car rolled out of the Fremont, California, factory at about 5 a.m. local time on Sunday morning, so merely five hours late. Tesla nonetheless achieved an all-time production record by making a total of 7,000 cars in seven days. That number includes the 5,000 Model 3s, plus the usual run of the Model X and the Model S.

Tesla later released production figures for the second quarter of 2018. It manufactured 53,339 cars between April and June. 28,578 of those were Model 3s, while the remaining 24,761 balance represents the Model S and the Model X. The company notes this was the first quarter during which it built more Model 3s than the S and the X combined. We expect this trend will continue in the foreseeable future.

“We did it! We either found a way or, by will and inventiveness, created entirely new solutions that were thought impossible. Intense in tents. Transporting entire production lines across the world in massive cargo planes. Whatever. It worked,” Musk wrote.

The responses to the announcement have been all over the board. Some praised Musk and his team for pulling off a feat that looked utterly impossible a few short weeks ago. Reservation holders waiting for the Model 3 welcomed the news like a Christmas basket. Steven Armstrong, the head of Ford’s European division, pointed out his firm makes 7,000 cars every four hours. It’s the latest blow in a Twitter spat that started when Musk called Ford a morgue.

On a more serious note, analysts question whether Tesla can continue to build 5,000 Model 3s a week in the foreseeable future or if this was just another build burst to impress investors. Reaching that goal required building a tent outside of the factory to house an all-new assembly line, pulling workers away from the Model S and Model X production lines, and running two 12-hour shifts every day of the week. Anonymous employees said Tesla went as far as staggering breaks to ensure the line never stopped moving.

“Reaching [the milestone] is one thing. Consistently producing 5,000 per week with outstanding quality is another,” said Dave Sullivan, AutoPacific’s manager of product analysis, in a statement sent to Bloomberg.

Musk isn’t concerned; he hinted Tesla might bump Model 3 output to 6,000 units a week by the end of August.

Update: Added Q2 production figures.

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