Even with robots, there is such a thing as having too many cooks in the kitchen.
Elon Musk, the billionaire co-founder and CEO of Tesla, said the electric carmaker’s over-reliance on automation is partly to blame for the delays that have plagued the production of its Model 3 sedan.
“We had this crazy, complex network of conveyor belts … And it was not working, so we got rid of that whole thing,” Musk told CBS This Morning co-host Gayle King during a tour of Tesla’s Silicon Valley factory.
The solution? Calling in more workers.
Caught in what Musk called “manufacturing hell,” Tesla has fallen woefully short of its initial goal of manufacturing 5,000 Model 3 vehicles per week by the end of 2017. The company has since pushed out that production target to mid-2018, but many doubt that it will be able to make even that deadline, as it still hasn’t reached 2,500 cars per week.
The Model 3, Tesla’s first mid-priced vehicle, represents a key turning point in Musk’s vision for the company, which started out focusing on high-end cars as a means to push down technology costs and eventually be able to produce an affordable electric car for the mass market.
Tesla’s future may hinge on its ability to pull off the second part of that plan.
Musk personally took control of the Model 3 production line at the beginning of April, at times resorting to pulling all-nighters and sleeping on the factory floor.
“When things get really intense, I don’t have time to go home and shower and change, so I just sleep here,” Musk told CBS News.
“Last time I was here, I actually slept literally on the floor, ’cause the couch was too narrow,” he joked.
Still, Musk said he now feels confident the company is close to overcoming the issues that have hobbled the Model 3 production.
“We’ll probably have, I don’t know, a three- or four-fold increase in Model 3 output in the second quarter,” he said.
For now, though, investors appear skeptical. On March 27, credit rating agency Moody’s downgraded Tesla’s corporate rating citing a “significant shortfall” in the Model 3 production rate and adding that the company was tight on money.
That’s just one of the latest headaches for Tesla after it issued a voluntary recall of 123,000 of its older Model S vehicles and is facing the fallout from a fatal crash involving one of its vehicles that was using the firm’s semi-autonomous driving system.