Tesla Model 3: Elon Musk's firm faces more setbacks as it suspends its assembly line AGAIN

Car news / Вторник, Апрель 17th, 2018

The Tesla Model 3 is one of the most exciting cars of recent years, but its success hinges on Tesla’s ability to mass produce.

For the past year, analysts and industry insiders have questioned Tesla’s ability, while its CEO Elon Musk has remained bullish about Tesla’s targets. In July, Musk claimed Tesla would be making 20,000 Model 3s a month by December. Yet, in the last quarter of 2017, the company only actually built 2,425. What’s more, of the Tesla Model 3s produced, the company delivered just 1,550 to customers, many of whom were Tesla employees. 

The Tesla Model 3 production lag is said to have been caused, or at least hindered, by «manufacturing glitches'» at Tesla’s mammoth Gigafactory battery plant in Nevada. In March, the company admitted it had been forced to suspend production of its Model 3 for a week at the end of February for «planned adjustments to equipment» that should, in theory, help the factory improve automation. Tesla claims that the pause is perfectly normal behaviour when a company is ramping up production and there may even be more downtime planned in the near future. 

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Now Buzzfeed is reporting Tesla is temporarily shutting down the car’s Fremont assembly line «for four to five days» so it can «improve automation and systematically address bottlenecks» with the aim of increasing production levels.

Musk has maintained this period of “development hell” would be tricky for Tesla, and, in November, said it was caused by a third-party dropping the ball. A company Tesla hired to assemble batteries into modules pulled out, for example, which meant Tesla “had to rewrite all of the software from scratch and redo many of the mechanical and electrical elements,» Musk explained. «This is what I’ve spent many a late night at the Gigafactory working on.» Tesla did have its most productive year in history, however, delivering 101,312 vehicles — an increase of 33% from 2016. 

For everything else you need to know about the Tesla Model 3, keep reading. 

10 things you need to know about the Tesla Model 3

1. There’s going to be a Ludicrous version

Unlike the Tesla Model S, which has a rapid, dual-motor setup, the Tesla Model 3 has to contend with one rear motor, and that means it’s significantly slower. That’s fine because the Tesla Model 3 is built for value, not speed – but now it looks like we’re getting a “hot” dual-motor version of the Model 3 anyway.

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A video picked up by Electrek appears to show a performance version of the Tesla Model 3 at Tesla’s test track, and it seems significantly faster than the standard car. On the outside, it looks pretty much identical to the long-range battery pack and rear-wheel-drive Tesla Model 3, but look closer and you’ll see some interesting details that set it aside.

Red rear brake calipers, not seen on the standard Tesla Model 3, suggest this could be a performance version, and the set off speed also looks much faster than the standard model’s 5.1 second 0-60 mph time.

Video of First video of a performance Model 3 ! | Model 3 Owners Club

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At the time, Elon Musk described the unveiling as Phase One of the Tesla Model 3 launch and explained that many parts of the car weren’t yet final. So what do we know about the car that Elon Musk is calling the Model T of electric cars?

2. This was the first Model 3

Early last year, Musk tweeted pictures of the first Tesla Model 3. Although he posted a monochrome picture initially, a later image revealed the new EV to be finished in blue or black.

As for the owner? That wasn’t actually Musk – at least to begin with, anyway. In a later tweet, Musk explained that Tesla board member Ira Ehrenpreis had the rights to the first car, but he transferred them to Musk as a 46th birthday present. That means Musk has the first example of the Tesla Roadster, Model X and Model 3 – but not the Model S.

3. Tesla isn’t making enough Model 3s

For a while, Tesla seemed to be hitting its targets of the Model 3, but new figures show it really hasn’t – and its stock is falling. According to Reuters, Tesla aimed to produce a total of 1,500 sedans when it first entered production, but it instead built 260 – and delivered only 220 of those. The more recent figures show a similar gap between expectation and reality. 

That’s bad any way you look at it, and it’s something automotive analysts had been predicting to some degree. The shortfall has caused Tesla’s stock to close more than 2% lower than before – and its rivals’ stock to increase. Despite the shortfall, Tesla is remaining confident that numbers will pick up later in the year – and says the low output is down to “bottlenecks” in the production process.

Tesla Model 3 UK price, specs, news and release date: 11 things you NEED to know

However, it seems most analysts seem to share Tesla’s optimism. Morgan Stanley has said “Most auto launches have hiccups, and Tesla is no exception.»

4. The Tesla Model 3 comes with Autopilot equipment as standard

This seems to have been largely overlooked, but it’s huge. At the launch event, Musk said all Tesla Model 3s will have Autopilot hardware as standard, including all the safety features that come with it. Sure, you won’t get the full autonomous Autopilot I tried the other day, but you will get features such as autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane keeping and automatic preventative steering (Autosteer), which is seriously impressive at this price.

Plus, because the Tesla Model 3 comes with all the sensors and lasers you need for Autopilot as standard, you can always get the matching software at a later date. It will probably cost you around £2,600, but having the option to upgrade your entry-level Tesla is a real bonus.

5. This is the Tesla Model 3 interior

Musk showed the interior of the Tesla’s low-cost EV when he unveiled the car, but he never demonstrated how the car’s horizontal touchscreen works. However, videos like the one below now show the Tesla Model 3’s infotainment screen in action.

The Tesla Model 3’s infotainment system is one of the more controversial things about the car, for two reasons. In order to save costs, the Tesla Model 3 has a 15in horizontal screen, which is smaller and rotated compared to the touchscreen in both the Model S and the Model X.

Video of Tesla Model 3 Impressions!

What’s more, the Tesla Model 3 doesn’t have an instrument cluster so, unlike the Model S and the Model X, it only has one screen to display all the information the driver needs – from autonomous features to music streaming and air conditioning. And when you throw in the fact that the screen is smaller, that seems like a tough design challenge.

6. The Tesla Model 3 uses Pansonic batteries

According to Reuters, Tesla was in talks with Samsung to supply batteries for the Tesla Model 3 and the Tesla Powerwall 2 home battery, but that now appears to be wrong. As you’d expect, Musk took to Twitter to deny the claims, saying Tesla is “working exclusively with Panasonic for Model 3 cells. News articles claiming otherwise are incorrect.”

7. The Tesla Model 3 doesn’t have free Supercharging

For the past four years, Supercharging has been free to Tesla owners, but that’s about to change. In a statement, Tesla says: “For Teslas ordered after January 1, 2017, 400kWh of free Supercharging credits (roughly 1,000 miles) will be included annually so that all owners can continue to enjoy free Supercharging.»

That means it won’t be scrapping free Supercharging altogether, but it does mean new owners will eventually have to pay if they want to use one of Tesla’s quick chargers. As for the price? We’re not sure yet, as Tesla’s website simply says: “Beyond that, there will be a small fee to Supercharge which will be charged incrementally and cost less than the price of filling up a comparable gas car. All cars will continue to come standard with the onboard hardware required for Supercharging.”

8. Tesla thinks you should get a Model S instead – sometimes

Tesla wants to make sure the Tesla Model 3 is not the only EV it sells. Just months before the Tesla Model 3 launch, Tesla began to circulate a comparison chart that showed the differences between the Model 3 and the Model S, and Tesla’s new EV doesn’t come out of it particularly well.

In fact, the chart shows that the Tesla Model 3 is slower than the Model S (5.6 seconds to 2.3), has a lower range (220 miles to at least 249) and has one fewer display than the Model S. What’s more, the new chart also shows the Model 3 will be much less customisable than the Model 3, giving customers less than 100 possible configurations compared to the Model S’s 1,500.

So why is Tesla doing this? First, waiting times for the Tesla Model 3 are already at one year, and if Tesla can divert customers to another model, the backlog could be reduced. Second, because the Tesla Model 3 is so popular, it’s possible that many customers aren’t aware of where it sits in the Tesla range, or that the Model S is a far more premium car. These charts, therefore, can be used to educate and hopefully upsell prospective Model 3 buyers to the Model S.

9. The Tesla Model 3 isn’t THAT cheap

The Tesla Model 3 starts at around $35,000 – significantly less than the Tesla Model S – and it comes with autonomous technology, a range of colours and quite a few interesting options. Except it actually doesn’t.

As pointed out by CNNTech, many of the headline features of the new Tesla Model 3 – the ones fitted to the review cars driven by journalists last week – are optional and significantly bump up the cost of the new EV.

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According to CNNTech, any colour other than black will cost customers $1000, while the Autopilot features we’ve been waiting for cost an extra $8,000. While the Model 3’s 220-mile range is impressive, it costs another $9,000 to get a battery capable of a headline-stealing 320-mile range.

As with any car, the Model 3 will cost more with extras, but the surprising thing here is just how little the Tesla comes with as standard. The base Model 3 is still revolutionary and comes with all the kit you’d expect from a tech-filled car in 2017, but you’ll need to pay a lot more to get the real «Tesla» experience.

YouTuber and Tesla fan Ben Sullins has created an online calculator for the Model 3, as spotted by The Next Web. You can choose your battery, select your upgrade, wheel and colour choice as well as your loan plan to get a monthly fee. Click the form below to use the tool.

10. The Tesla Model 3 has arrived in Europe

Tesla might have only just started producing its new Model 3, but at least one example of the new EV has already made it across the Atlantic to Europe. After one was spotted in the Netherlands earlier this month, another similar-looking Tesla Model 3 has been seen in Germany.

According to Electrek, Tesla’s EVs are often seen in Germany, and that’s because they’ve been bought by German automakers to study and reverse-engineer. Tesla is still a pioneer in the EV market, and brands such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes are very keen to analyse the tech inside Elon Musk’s latest electric cars.

However, that’s probably not what’s happened this time around. At the moment, Tesla is only building Model 3s for employees and those high up in the company. That means it’s very unlikely the Tesla Model 3 seen in Germany belongs to a German automaker. Instead it’s most likely to belong to a Tesla employee that happens to be in Europe.