Tesla CEO Musk: We'll Build 80 Model S Electric Cars This Week

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2012 Tesla Model S beta vehicle, Fremont, CA, October 2011

2012 Tesla Model S beta vehicle, Fremont, CA, October 2011

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The 2012 Tesla Model S all-electric sport sedan is now in a race with time.

The first production Model S was delivered in June, and Tesla has cautiously been ramping up production numbers while trying to keep initial quality high.

But the company has said repeatedly it will sell 5,000 of its new electric car by the end of this year, and indeed, its cashflow needs may require that volume to be delivered.

Tesla news often seems to come first from the personal Twitter account of CEO Elon Musk.

So it was with a message late last night, in which Musk tweeted, "Tesla made 100 vehicle bodies this week for the first time. Really proud of the team!"

Accompanying the message was a photo of a partial aluminum frame that Musk identified as "S/N 396," or serial number 396--indicating that almost 400 production bodies have now been assembled.

[UPDATE: In SEC paperwork filed on September 25, Tesla Motors stated, "As of September 23, 2012, we have produced a total of 255 Model S vehicles, including 77 Model S vehicles produced during the week ended September 23, 2012. " That number presumably refers to completed vehicles, not body shells.]

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Five days after this article ran on September 17, we were contacted by Christina Ra of Tesla Motors, who said the number of 400 bodies built was inaccurate. She would not provide any information to back up this claim, beyond saying that the serial number is not indicative in this case. In the absence of actual facts, you may draw your own conclusions.]

Separately, Musk said four days ago in a Fox Business video interview that the company was likely to build 80 completed cars this week, after assembling 40 last week.

In the same interview, Musk predicted a "tsunami of hurt" coming for investors that have shorted the stock of Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA], of whom there are substantial numbers.

When we drove early-production Model S cars in mid-July, the serial numbers of the four different models were 106, 108, 111, and 116.

Eight weeks later, the company has built 280 more cars.

To hit its goal of 5,000 sales, the company likely needs to build something like 5,500 cars.

Model S vehicles are personally delivered to a location of the buyer's choice, so the company's "pipeline" holds less inventory than for companies that offer conventional dealer distribution.

To build 5,200 more cars in the 14 weeks between now and Christmas, Tesla Motors will have to hit a production rate around 400 cars a week, or the 80 cars a day Musk has mentioned in the past. That's five times the current rate.

Thus far, and unlike startup Fisker Automotive, Tesla has not had any major quality flaws reported in the media.

Will the company achieve its goal of 5,000 deliveries by December 31?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.

[hat tip: Brian Henderson]


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Comments (26)
  1. I'm really more interested in seeing them make quality cars than making some arbitrary number. However, I do understand the financial realities of needing to ship in larger volumes.

  2. A little over 100 days. Around 4,500 to deliver. That's 45 per day ignoring weekends. Even if they'd built them all, they couldn't deliver that many. And they won't be making 45 per day for some time to come meaning they'll have to deliver 200+ per day by the end of the year.

  3. Betting against Elon Musk would be akin to betting against Steve Jobs. Shorting TSLA is a risky enterprise, indeed.

  4. Musk, by his own admission and by the word of the man who bailed him out with an infusion of cash, was broke in 2008. Musk later recanted his statement made to a judge about his financial condition, but the man has blown his original internet fortune on his crazy auto and space ventures. Trust him at your own risk.

  5. Steve Jurvetson was the poor guy who says he bailed Musk out in 2008. In return, Steve was given a seat on both the Tesla and Space X boards.

  6. Help me out here, Jim; wasn't just about everyone low on cash in 2008? And what exactly does that have to do with 2012? Very telling that you write post after post attacking Mr. Musk personally, calling Tesla exploitative for buying an old factory that would have been shuttered otherwise, and claiming to know far more than you really seem to know. At some point, perhaps you can comment on the cars? Oh, that's right, not much to attack there, is there?

    There are certainly legitimate criticisms about Tesla. What happened in 2008 and claiming Tesla is a taxpayer-supported incubator is just ignorant and dishonest. Tesla took a loan, the govt. doesn't own it. By that definition, is Ford now govt, owned? I mean, the loan was for much more...

  7. So Musk has "blown" his fortune on SpaceX and Tesla. I wasn't aware those companies went bankrupt.

  8. He was out of cash, NOT broke, there is a big difference

  9. There are more comments in this thread
  10. Musk seems to be an expert at identifying green, naive or gullible journalists. Talk is cheap when you run your business inside a protective, taxpayer supported, incubator/greenhouse. The real world of business is rough and tumble, and you can't just spending other people's money when you can't build more than 10 or 100 serviceable auto units per week. In my opinion, Elon Musk will be judged by history as a scoundrel and a very clever con artist.

    When and if Musk's Tesla and Space X risky experiments are able to scale up to a sustainable production level, then those companies will become no different than the aerospace industry "dinosaurs" that Musk claimed have been doing it all wrong for decades.

  11. Tweets cannot be targeted to anybody, so you lose on your very first sentence.

  12. Boy, what's eat'n your ass. You must be one of those investors that bet big shorting TSLA, and now you are desperate to say any lies to devalue the stock. You deserve to loose every penny!

  13. wow, never thought i would see quibbling over who gets to hammer the nails in the coffin here. still way too early in the game to make any reasonable assumptions (if there is such a thing when concerning EVs and the status quo)

  14. David, EV's aren't the underlying issue here. It's a question of business viability and integrity. TESLA and SPACE X are state-supported companies, yet Musk still needed more outside money to stay alive. TESLA/Musk exploited the availability of cheap, abandoned factory machinery and floor space to help create the illusion that he could "do it cheaper and smarter". That, and other shortcuts began to catch up with the venture and now Musk has little more than pep talks and grandiose projections to convince the government investors that Tesla can run with the big dogs. Musk always verbally attacks and insults critics without specifically engaging in any sort of balanced, two-way dialogue. He does that because he knows that he cannot win.

  15. Jim, whether or not Tesla makes it in the end is a separate discussion, but you really destroy your own credibility here.

    "TESLA/Musk exploited the availability of cheap, abandoned factory machinery and floor space to help create the illusion that he could "do it cheaper and smarter".

    Uh, is buying an old factory for pennies on the dollar now a kind of exploitation? Sounds like basic good business sense to me, actually. Or did you have a better way to save a tremendous amount of money when looking to manufacture?

    You're comparing Tesla to other OEMs, which is fine, but Tesla doesn't need to meet the same volumes, of course. 80 a day now and 100 later is fine at this stage.

    Perhaps you need to actually drive one or read reviews...

  16. At least Musk is putting people to work and contributing to the economy of California and the USA as a whole and thats a whole lot better than having an empty factory sitting there doing nothing. Elon Musk said starting a bussiness is not easy and he is the first to admit that it is hard to change the status quo. He knows its not easy but I feel that he has showed himself to be an ethical and dedicated business man for he even paid his employees with his own personal funds back in 2009 when they were strapped for cash.

  17. wait and see what the bankruptcy ratio of liabilities to assets before talking about putting people to work

  18. Jim, I feel your pain :(

  19. Tesla can certainly do that if their "manufacturing" process is stable and parts supply are good.

    Large company such as GM, Toyota, Ford and Honda can crank out 1 car per minute or less per factory once their production queue and parts supply pipeline are filled up. But it usually take ups to 1-2 months for those factory to run into "full capacity".

    If Tesla can do something similar to that even at 10x slower rate, (1 car per 10 mins = 6 cars per hour or 144 cars per day), Tesla will do fine.

  20. ha ha ha ha ha

  21. I toured the BMW factory in SC and the Buick factory in Shanghai. The BMW factory was churning out a couple of hundred Z4s and X-whatevers per day. A few hundred Tesla EVs per week would not seem to be an insurmountable challenge, but even the Volt and Leaf are only at 1000/mo. Will Tesla do it? I think possibly....can I get the plant tour now?

  22. take a peek at the garage they are made in for the showrooms

  23. It is beginning to look like Tesla will not meet it's goal of 5000 cars by the end of the year, but it is clearly ramping up and they doubled last week's output. It won't be the end of Tesla if they fail to make 4000 cars, but they need to keep increasing and get to 100 cars a day.

  24. I spoke to the guy with reservation #~4500 today and he was told "end of November". I'm curious how you know they won't be meeting the goal.

  25. Read what the few customers have to say about the repair requirements that come with a poorly designed tesla, and the real milage of the electric cars powered by coal fired power plants.

  26. You can say what you want about Elon Musk but I've never seen a company get as much free advertisement as Tesla. I have not seen one paid advertisement for Tesla and yet there are 12,000+ pre-orders for the Model S. Each of these customers has put down a $5,000 deposit. Did I mention there's been almost no paid advertising?

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