Published on June 16, 2019 |
by Zachary Shahan
June 16, 2019 by Zachary Shahan
Preface: I published this article for the first time in March 2018. A recent tweet highlighting an interview with Elon Musk in 2014 reminded me, and as this piece is still relevant today, I'm republishing it below with only minor changes. Enjoy!
I think it was in April 2013 that we learned that the production of Tesla Model 3 would probably start in 2017. Well, we still had no name for the car. We called it "the fourth production model of Tesla". Ella, General Manager of Tesla. Musk apparently hoped for an exit in 2016, but knew calmly and thought that 2017 was more likely. His exact answer to some questions from Engadget on the subject: "Let's hope 2016, but I will say no later than 2017."
In August 2013, we learned that the name was probably going to be Tesla Model E. Tesla tried to give it a mark in order to have fun with the spelling of its possible range of vehicles (S-E-X-Y). However, Ford apparently owned the "Model E" brand and did not wish to entrust it to Tesla. Tesla later changed its name to Tesla Model (aka Tesla Model 3).
What's interesting for me here is that the statement that the car would be in production by 2017 was accurate, when it was long before the car was even called Model 3.
In addition, despite all the hype of the model 3 delayed, the production of model 3 has actually started within the timeframe estimated by Elon. back in 2013.
I think that the 2017 estimate was again mentioned by Elon the following year, but I can find no reference to that in our archives.
At the end of November 2014, I interviewed our readers about the production goal for the 3 Tesla model for 2017. This goal at that time included no forecast regarding the number of cars produced – production on model 3 would begin by the end of 2017. The majority (62.5%) of our enthusiastic readers / Tesla fans responded that they did not think that model 3 would arrive in 2017. (Note, in case you missed it: model 3 made arrive in 2017.)
By the way, in October or early November 2014, Jerome Guillen (then "chief designer" of Tesla, then Tesla Semi project manager and now president of Tesla Automotive) said that Tesla was aiming to produce 500,000 cars a year. By 2020. Presumably, if people thought that model 3 would not arrive on time, they also thought that the goal of 500,000 cars / year by 2020 was unrealistic, but we did not probe him. Tesla then surpassed the target of 500,000 by 2020 to reach 500,000 / year by 2018 (in response to massive consumer demand for Model 3). Even if this ambitious goal has not been achieved, the target of 500,000 cars / year by 2020 still seems a good possibility.
Note: We heard in June 2015 that Model 3 would actually have a range of 250 miles per load, not just the promised 200 miles. It was a big rumor, and we did not know whether to be excited or skeptical. It turns out that the nominal range of the base EPA of Model 3 is 220 km, the most popular version, the Model 3 Standard Range Plus, has a range of 240 km, and the Model 3 Long Range of 300 km.
In August 2015, here are some of my notes from Tesla's quarterly shareholder report:
- The design of Model 3 will be revealed in the first quarter of 2016. (Woohoo!)
- The first deliveries are still expected by the end of 2017.
- Basically, the 3 is still on time, but there is not much to say at the moment.
- Tesla estimates that 500,000 cars a year by 2020 are still underway, and that this could even go beyond that. 500,000 are based on the production capacity of the Fremont factory, but Tesla could locate production at some locations within 3 to 5 years. (Update: we now have the Tesla Gigafactory Chinese quickly moving towards completion.)
Once again, the first deliveries took place in 2017. Actually, the first deliveries arrived in the middle 2017, not the end of 2017. However, it is true that the first deliveries to non-staff customers took place at the end of 2017.
Now, I would also note here that Elon never claimed that mass production would begin immediately. Anyone who is familiar with increasing the production of a new vehicle knows that this is not how it will happen. Given this, the start of production in mid-2017 and its gradual build-up (with hiccups) until the end of 2017 and early 2018 were actually ahead of schedule as we presumed planes for 2015.
And, again, if you look at our 2014 survey, even the optimistic Tesla fans generally did not expect Tesla to launch the Model 3 in production in 2017. (Context, Sherlock, the context.)
I have another note "about" for you. At the end of 2015, Elon said, "And with the model (Tesla) 3 and various iterations on this platform, I'm really convinced that we can do, you know, 300,000 or 400,000 more cars a year This implies that Elon thought annual demand and production of the model 3 and Model Y (at least) would total 300,000 to 400,000 units a year (combined).
In his opinion on this topic in 2016, Mr. Musk expected the demand for Model 3 and Model Y to be around 500,000 to 1,000,000 units per year, or 1 to 2 million units per year. I do not think he is changing course on this general expectation.
In other words, the 2015 Elon calendar for Model 3 turned out to be essentially accurate, but it significantly underestimated demand compared to today's expectations. (Sounds familiar?)
When did the production start target for mid-2017 come into play? On May 4, 2016, Elon hesitated to share the accelerated goal. You could say before saying that he did not really want to share the dates, but I imagine he thought the word would be communicated anyway (or that he was trying too hard to explain how tofu was made). He revealed that Tesla's official goal with regard to the start of production was on July 1, 2017, but he stressed that the goal was only for suppliers to try to bring them to be delivered within a reasonable time. The realistic target for the actual start of production remained at the end of 2017.
By the beginning of 2017, everything seemed to be going as planned for the start of production in July 2017. It was shocking. Most people did not believe it. The harsh critics still claim that the production of Model 3 will not begin until 2019 or 2020, or something like that.
No, volume production did not start in summer or 2017, but the production of model 3 has actually started. At that time, of course, many "skeptics," "very serious analysts," and opponents have abandoned their claims that Tesla was unable to produce Model 3. They have stopped to say with certainty to 100% it would be years before Model 3 is adopted. production, if she ever did. They dropped claims that it was impossible for Tesla to start production by the end of 2017. No, the goal posts had been moved.
And in the second half of 2017, it finally arrived. Tesla has finally fallen behind some of its declared production targets for Model 3. Bottlenecks with battery production in particular – which Elon Musk has admitted to be ironic and probably due to a misplaced complacency – have slowed down model production 3. Other bottlenecks may also be at play, but we have never heard of anything else. Whatever the case may be, with even a critical machine down and a car part coming out slower than expected, Tesla missed some model 3 production forecasts. This is not fun. This is yet another sign that Tesla and Elon do not defy the laws of this universe and are indeed fallible. But he is also a little extreme, shortsighted and hypocritical to act as if Tesla was always late, but only late, and had to find an operational watch.
In fact, bottlenecks in the second half of 2017 did not prevent Tesla from reaching Model 3 production in 2017, as expected in 2013 or even earlier. The bottlenecks slowed the production increases that Tesla wanted to achieve, but they more or less left Tesla where it expected when it planned the story in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Elon is often criticized for his excessive optimism with deadlines. If you look at what he said in 2013 about the production of Model 3, which begins no later than 2017, the man was right. His estimate was on the mark. His schedule (not quite his hopes, but his committed schedule) was right on the mark.
Who trusted his calendar? Who is expected to actually launch Model 3 in production in 2017? Not a lot of people. And certainly not the people who said that Tesla would fail in 2013, in 2014, in 2015, in 2016 and again in 2017.
To determine who is the most accurate time, it may be time to give Elon a little more elements and a little less coolness.
Finally, remember, many critics have also repeatedly stated that the Tesla Model X could not be mass produced. Some "very serious industry analysts" claimed that it was fundamentally impossible. But it's a story for another day.