2018 Tesla Model 3
As press reports begin to mount up about quality issues with its critical Model 3, Bloomberg reported that Tesla will shut down the Model 3 production line to improve automation on the Model 3 assembly line at its factory in Fremont, California.
The company says the shutdown has been long-planned and that it will not affect the ramp-up in Model 3 production to the company's long-promised 5,000 cars a week. The shutdown is expected to last until Saturday.
In separate news, Jalopnik reported that workers on the Model 3 assembly line will move to three shifts per day starting in June to meet and ramp up production to 6,000 cars a week, presumably in an effort to make up for lost time. That would move Model 3 production up to round-the-clock levels.
Tesla factory, Fremont, California
The company released a statement saying:
"Our Model 3 production plan includes periods of planned downtime in both Fremont and at the [battery] Gigafactory.... These periods are used to improve automation and systematically address bottlenecks in order to increase production rates. This is not unusual and is in fact common in production ramps like this."
In fact, the shutdown may be being used to reduce automation on the Model 3 line using more human production and fewer robots or conveyor belts, as Tesla CEO Elon Musk alluded to in a Tweet on Sunday.
Yes, excessive automation at Tesla was a mistake. To be precise, my mistake. Humans are underrated.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 13, 2018
That Tweet seems to provide a pretty clear explanation of what may be changing at the factory beyond maintenance of factory machinery.
After a similar shutdown in February, Model 3, about which Tesla released nearly the same statement, production did increase.
The company says it is addressing quality concerns from individual customers, but dismisses reports that parts are piling up at suppliers for refitting.
2018 Tesla Model 3
Many financial analysts have expressed concern about whether the company can survive under its debt load unless it can produce more cars to sell.
Either way, Tesla has orders for an estimated 400,000 Model 3s from customers who can't take delivery, because their cars haven't been built.
And until the company achieves its production goal of 5,000 units a week, many of those order holders who want to buy all-wheel-drive Model 3s or more affordable Model 3s with the shorter-range battery pack will be left waiting a while longer.